Policy Catch-up

All of the usual rules of how time works cease to apply when it comes to a day at the legislature. Hours are somehow simultaneously very very long and far too short. This is my second legislative session with NARAL and it didn't take long to remember the unique mix of excitement and action combined with a healthy dose of just waiting for things to happen that is session time in CT.

We are a little over three weeks into the session and things are really starting to move now. This week saw our staff, board, and volunteers stepping up to write and present testimony, and supporting our advocacy allies in their work. Check out the highlights:

 

 

Protecting Access to Healthcare

The big excitement this week was a public hearing on Thursday in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee on H.B. 5210. This proposed bill does three things that are crucial to protecting and advancing access to healthcare here in our state:

  • Protects, in state law, the women's preventive health services currently covered by the ACA (these include STI screenings, domestic violence screenings, whole women's health visits, and access to contraception without cost-sharing)
  • Protects, in state law, the 10 Essential Health Benefits as currently required by the ACA (which includes maternal healthcare)
  • Improves access to birth control by allowing an individual to receive a 12-month supply of birth control with a single visit to the pharmacy
 
 From Left: Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey, Representative Caroline Simmons, Representative Christine Conley, Representative Liz Linehan, Senator Mae Flexer, and Representative Robyn Porter

From Left: Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey, Representative Caroline Simmons, Representative Christine Conley, Representative Liz Linehan, Senator Mae Flexer, and Representative Robyn Porter

 

I am so grateful that here in Connecticut, the state I'm proud to call home, there are some amazing pro-choice legislators who stand up for our reproductive rights. With their help, and the help of some amazing volunteers, advocates, and allies, we testified in support of this bill and made sure the members of the committee knew that this bill is a priority for residents of the Nutmeg State.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Another important update from this week is that the proposed bill to limit the deceptive practices of crisis pregnancy centers officially has a bill number! H.B. 5416, An Act Concerning Deceptive Advertising Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers is the bill to watch! Keep an eye out for a public hearing date and be ready to write and submit your testimony to show how much you care about access to reproductive healthcare, free from deception.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

CLEAR YOUR CALENDARS! On Thursday, March 8th it's time to celebrate International Women's Day by showing up at the Legislative Office Building! Beginning at 2:30, the Labor Committee will be holding a public hearing on S.B. 1/H.B. 5387: An Act Concerning Earned Family and Medical Leave. This hearing will also include bills on pay equity and increasing the minimum wage, so it's a BIG day for pushing common sense, progressive issues forward for the people of our state.

Fair Work Week

On Tuesday, March 6th, at 11AM in Room 1D of the Legislative Office Building, a proposed bill to stabilize working families by limiting "on-call" scheduling will have a public hearing before the Committee on Children of the Connecticut General Assembly. Working people in front-line service jobs—who are more likely to be women and people of color—are especially vulnerable to harmful scheduling practices that strain families. Are you a parent who has struggled to balance childcare with on-call schedules like in restaurants or food service jobs? Are you a business owner in support of this legislation? Are you a collect student struggling to take classes with a volatile work schedule? Submit your story here!

Support Andrew McDonald

Last, but not least, we support the nomination of Andrew McDonald for Chief Justice. He is highly qualified for this position, and his nomination is supported by the legal community in CT. We know that the courts have a huge impact on the future of reproductive rights. We cannot let partisan politics stop the nomination of judges here in CT. Sign the Petition to take action.

 

 

There's a lot to cover this session, and I'm excited for more hectic days of lobbying, testifying, and not getting enough sleep in the name of reproductive rights advocacy. Join me!

Author: Brenna Doyle, Deputy Director.

 

Abortion? Trust Black Women.

 https://profam.org/world-congress-of-families-leadership-memo-uk-and-australia-marriage-margaret-sanger-statue-religious-freedom/ 

https://profam.org/world-congress-of-families-leadership-memo-uk-and-australia-marriage-margaret-sanger-statue-religious-freedom/ 

I didn’t believe it until I saw it. I’d heard people talking about things like it before, but didn’t think they actually existed in Connecticut. I was wrong. The billboard was prominently placed in a busy intersection in Hartford’s North End. My eyes were drawn to it because of the chubby, undeniably cute Black toddler that graced its center. But this wasn’t an advertisement for diapers or baby formula. The large yellow and white words were impossible to miss: “Black Children are an Endangered Species”.

It was no mistake that I came across this particular billboard. The North End is a predominately Black community, where thousands of people would see the sign every day. The words are meant to shock, evoke fear, and incite anger. I’ve encountered something similar before. Black anti-choice advocates insist that abortion is “Black genocide”, and Black women who choose abortion are aiding the “destruction of the race”. Phrases like these are chosen intentionally. They prey on a mistrust of the US healthcare system, and rely on our knowledge of our role in medical history. I, like many others, was exposed to the stories of Henrietta Lacks, James Marion Sims, and the Tuskegee experiments (among many others). Three instances in which White “scientists” and “doctors” profited off of the grossly unethical treatment of Black bodies. While a very real aspect of our history, these narratives should not be used to shame Black women for choosing abortion.

As a clinic escort and a social justice advocate I challenge myself and others to acknowledge barriers that impede access to affordable, comprehensive reproductive healthcare. In this instance it means recognizing that Black women’s experiences with racism, sexism, poverty, and restrictive cultural norms, make our fight unique. These barriers limit our access to reproductive health care, which in turn helps proliferate myths about us.  As an advocate I work to dispel these myths within my community. Two of these myths in particular encompass a variety of social issues.

“Abortion is a ploy to eradicate the Black race”

This myth stems from the deliberate misinterpretation of Black abortion and health care rates. In the US Black women are more likely than any other group to obtain an abortion. However, highlighting this statistic, while disregarding the disparities that encourage it, is problematic. Black women’s abortion rates are a direct reflection of our rates of unintended pregnancy. One is at risk of unintended pregnancy if they are sexually active, of childbearing age, and do not want to become pregnant. Within this group, Black women are also more likely to practice improper birth control use. In other words, Black women’s abortion rates are high because we lack reliable and accessible contraception, and the education on how to use it properly. In order to combat this issue, we must focus on making birth control, and reproductive health education, accessible at all income levels.

    “Black girls are just fast”

    From an early age, many Black girls are taught to never be “fast”. “Fast” girls are promiscuous, dress provocatively, and look and act older than they are. The phrase is also used to shame Black girls who use contraception or choose to have an abortion. Being fast is never a good thing—it describes Black girls who stray too far from cultural norms of respectability. This mantra makes engaging in conversations about healthy sexuality, and proper contraceptive use nearly impossible. Without this information, Black girls cannot make informed decisions about their reproductive health care. This of course leads to higher instances of unintended pregnancies and other health issues. We must interrogate our cultural norms. This means actively working to eradicate the stigma of abortion, contraceptive use, and healthy sexuality.  It also means normalizing discussions about reproductive health and sex from a young age. Without knowledge there is no power.

The fight for reproductive rights is a complex issue. It’s about much more than a simple choice.  The US healthcare system is inherently inequitable, and is designed to neglect the most marginalized. Black women and girls deserve access to a medical system that values our lives. We not only have higher rates of unintended pregnancies, but also STDs/STIs, maternal death, sexual violence, and are more likely to be murdered by our partners. Existing in a world that constantly diminishes our humanity can be exhausting. But that does not mean we are hopeless.

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As Black women we can demand equitable reproductive treatment and education, and feel empowered to seek alternative methods when necessary. Allies--- include Black women in your advocacy work, and recognize when you need to step back and amplify their voices. We can create policies and communities that ensure marginalized groups have access to comprehensive reproductive care. We can educate our communities about their reproductive rights in the ways most accessible to them. We can rally together to oppose the crisis pregnancy centers and anti-choice protesters that target our communities and local clinics. We can build safe, supportive, and healthy spaces for each other.

Support pro-choice legislation. Volunteer at your local clinic. Value the voices of people different to you. Engage your family and friends in uncomfortable conversations. Most importantly, trust Black women.

Author: Amanda C., Hartford GYN Center Clinic Escort + Social Justice Advocate.

 

 

Welcome Our New Intern, Sarah!

1. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?

Hello, it’s nice to meet you! I am NARAL Pro-Choice CT’s newest intern. I am currently a senior majoring in Political Science and Communication and minoring in Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies at the University of Connecticut. This semester, I chose to finish my studies by participating in the Urban and Community Studies Department’s internship study away program in Hartford. I am really excited to dedicate my semester to the Hartford community, and to be able to work on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice CT to help protect the health and reproductive rights of Connecticut residents.

2. One of the ways we are able to organize others in the fight for reproductive freedom is to tell them why we are in this fight. What motivates you?

I am most motivated by the people around me and our collective experiences with fighting for reproductive freedom in our everyday lives. I want to eliminate the remaining stigma around the fight for reproductive freedom so that more people feel comfortable advocating for themselves and others. I believe that reproductive rights are human rights, and that this fight is everyone’s fight. We deserve the right to choose what is best for our bodies and ourselves without judgement.

3. Who is someone that inspires you in the work you do?

I am greatly inspired by a number of strong, intelligent, and fiercely compassionate womyn leaders in my life. However, I am also inspired by feminist activists and writers, such as, bell hooks. I keep a copy of her book,  Feminism is for everybody: passionate politics on my desk. In this book, bell hooks wrote, “If feminism is a movement to end sexist oppression, and depriving females of reproductive rights is a form of sexist oppression, then one cannot be anti-choice and be feminist. A woman can insist she would never choose to have an abortion while affirming her support of the right of women to choose and still be an advocate of feminist politics. She cannot be anti-abortion and still be an advocate of feminism.” This quote exemplifies one of the reasons why I find bell hooks inspirational, which is that she understands the nuances of issues like reproductive rights, and knows how to challenge people who attribute stigma to these issues to expand their understanding not only of human rights, but of the human condition.

4. What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work and school?

One of my favorite things to do outside of work and school is to visit museums-- especially art museums. Some of my favorite museums in the area are The Benton and the Harriet Beecher Stowe house.

5. Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years?

This is one of my favorite and least favorite questions to be asked, because I am happy not to have a specific answer to it. I will say this, in 10 years I am certain that I will still be working on behalf of people, places, and things that I am passionate about. In 10 years, I will still not have a specific answer to this question, because I will continue to challenge myself to expand my understanding of the world, and I will be wherever I need to be to help create peace and justice in our global society. There are a lot of ways to make positive contributions and create sustainable change. Right now, I am applying to the UConn MPA and hoping to apply to the JD dual degree program after that.

6. Anything else you would like to share?

One class that I took at UConn that greatly inspired me to fight for reproductive rights, women’s rights, and human rights was called Women and Violence. It is listed as both a human rights class (hrts 2263) and a women’s gender and sexuality course (wgss 2263). I think that every UConn student should take this course if they can.

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Author: Sarah M., University of Connecticut Student, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut Intern

 

2018 Legislative Agenda

As we continue to see reproductive freedom attacked at the federal level, it is more vital than ever that we continue the fight to protect that freedom here in our state. The legislative arm of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut works to pass pro-choice legislation and defend against anti-choice legislation, believing strongly that every person has the right to access the full range of reproductive choices including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and choosing legal abortion.

Protecting and Advancing Access to Reproductive Healthcare

Access to reproductive healthcare is under direct threat at the federal level. Connecticut is not immune to the effects of these threats; we must remain vigilant to ensure that the anti-choice movement does not gain more power in our state. This year, we will build on our work from the 2017 legislative session to protect existing access as well as working to move the needle forward on reproductive health.

Our priorities for this work include:

  • Ensuring continued coverage for all forms of birth control, without cost-sharing
  • Protection for essential benefits as outlined in the ACA
  • Improving access by making birth control available through a 12-month supply

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs)

Crisis pregnancy centers are anti-abortion counseling centers that are unregulated by the state and often give out false medical information and use deceptive advertising practices. These organizations are a threat to access to reproductive healthcare here in Connecticut. Every person should be able to access honest, non-judgmental healthcare and should not be shamed or deceived when attempting to exercise their right to access this care. We will be focused on legislation to limit the deceptive practices of CPCs in our state.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut is a proud member of the Campaign for Paid Family Leave. No worker should be forced to choose between the family they love or their own health and the job they need. Paid family and medical leave will ensure that workers who need to take time off to welcome a new baby, care for an ill loved one or recover from a personal illness are not punished financially. It is past time for the CT General Assembly to take action to pass this vital legislation.

Give Back and Speak Up: Why I Support NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut

Guest Post, Kayla Reasco, Board Chair, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, Inc.

In May of 2016, I took a position on the Board of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, the state’s leading reproductive rights political advocacy organization. A whole lot has changed from that date until now. Under the new Administration, many (or most) of our reproductive rights have been placed under fire. I never thought I would live in a world where I did not have a say in what happens to my own body. Growing up, I was always taught to give back and speak up. That lesson is important now more than ever.

At the federal, state, and local levels we have seen attack after attack on our reproductive freedom. Since November of 2016, many of us, including myself, have realized that we are not as safe as we once thought in Connecticut. Last year in our state, we saw multiple anti-choice bills filed, an anti-choice amendment filed to kill a bill that protects birth control access, and a proliferation of anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers and sidewalk protesters outside abortion clinics. These attacks have reminded us never to take our rights for granted and how important it is that we stay vigilant and active.

I do this work so that no matter where you are from, what you look like, or where you live you are free to make decisions about your own body. To me, full reproductive freedom looks like a level playing field. I envision thousands of people from all walks of life continuing to work together to speak openly about abortion access and their healthcare needs. I envision a state with pro-choice elected officials, speaking openly about abortion and reproductive freedom, working on proactive legislation and protecting against threats at the federal level. I envision a deeply rooted, connected, and powerful grassroots base of people in our state who demand control over their own bodies and reject stigma and shame.

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At NARAL, we believe it is every person’s right to decide if, how, and when to have a family. Moving into 2018 I am so proud to be part of an organization like NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut working to make this vision our reality. I am in this fight because I have to be. Please join me.

Author: Kayla Reasco, Board Chair, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, Inc. 

LGBTQ+ People Need Abortion Access, Too.

LGBTQ+ identified people need abortion access.

That was the point I worked to get across during my 3 minute testimony that I gave in front of Hartford City Council last Monday. I have spent this semester interning with True Colors, Inc. and NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut concentrating on reproductive health, rights, and justice especially for LGBTQ+ young people in Hartford. Last week, Hartford City Council gathered to host a public hearing on the proposed Pregnancy Information and Disclosure Ordinance.  If passed, this ordinance would require Crisis Pregnancy Centers to disclose services they offer and whether or not they have licensed medical staff on the premises. On Monday hundreds of people flooded city hall from all over Connecticut both in support and against the ordinance.

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Crisis pregnancy centers are fake clinics. They are usually non-profit organizations (run by anti-abortion religious extremists) that set up to look like comprehensive reproductive health clinics even though they are not. Their goal is to persuade unsuspecting people from choosing abortion and other reproductive health care options. There  is a CPC here in Hartford, called “Hartford Women’s Center” located only feet away from Hartford GYN Center, a real family planning clinic. The location’s proximity to Hartford GYN Center was purposeful. The goal of the “Hartford Women’s Center” is to intercept Hartford GYN Center patients on their way to appointments. That goal is not different from that of the other CPCs in Connecticut. There are close to 30 CPCs in Connecticut and only 18 real clinics. Nationwide there are over 4,000 CPCs and they outnumber abortion providers.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers often do the following:

  • Open in areas close to college campuses, low income communities, and by real clinics

  • Tend to have vague names (Like the Hartford Women’s Center)

  • Pretend to be full service health centers

  • Give false medical information about the “dangers” of abortion and contraception

  • Lie about the gestational age of the pregnancy, to push someone past the legal limit to choose abortion

  • Offer biased options counseling, which tends to be religiously based

  • Offer free pregnancy tests

  • Offer free ultrasounds and incentivize ultrasounds

  • Tend to be volunteer run...these volunteers often times wear scrubs or lab coats (like medical professionals)

  • Tend to not have real medically licensed staff

  • Use other misleading and deceptive tactics to counsel a pregnant person out of receiving an abortion, or even push them past the legal limit to being able to receive an abortion

Abortion is legal and our right to access it is being threatened. One population here in in Hartford that is affected by this issue are LGBTQ+ folks, especially transgender young people. Here are some statistics that put this issue in perspective:

  • As many as 98% of transgender men who have sex with men report that they lack adequate sexual health education

  • Many transgender men who have sex with men are at risk for unintended pregnancy as well as STIs. Some transgender men report being more concerned about pregnancy than HIV and other STIs.

  • Transgender and gender nonconforming youth are particularly at risk for sexual abuse and for engaging in commercial or survival sex (trading sex to meet basic needs)

  • 48% of transgender men have delayed or avoided preventative health care such as pelvic exams or STI screening out of fear of discrimination or disrespect. One survey reported that half of transgender men did not receive annual pelvic exams.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community need equal access to reproductive health care. LGBT+ youth of color especially have a higher risk of having an unintended pregnancy, HIV, and experiencing sexual violence. Additionally, LGBTQ+ youth, especially transgender youth of color, experience high rates of violence against them. Young people are also particularly susceptible to deceptive practices by crisis pregnancy centers, because we most likely don’t have a lot of experience seeking out medical care by ourselves, and in the case of reproductive health care we just might be looking for help alone.

So, when an anti-choice fake clinic opens with a vague name in close proximity to a real clinic,, it’s quite easy to stumble into the wrong place. I worry about what could happen to a young queer person who accidentally walks through the wrong door.

Abortion access is not just a straight cisgender woman’s issue. Abortion access is an LGBTQ+ issue. Include LGBTQ+ people in your discussions about reproductive health, rights, and justice.  Be brave and radically inclusive. Break stigma. Defend, protect, and promote access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare for everyone who needs it, and start right here in Hartford.

Author: Xena, intern at True Colors, Inc. and NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut

 

 

 

 

Hartford Shows Up at City Hall!

A week ago, hundreds of people flooded to Hartford City Hall to address the Pregnancy Information and Disclosure Ordinance, introduced by Mayor Bronin. The ordinance would require any pregnancy services center to be forthright about the services they provide, and whether there are licensed medical providers on site. 

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The tension in the hallway outside the hearing room was deeply felt. We had been organizing for months documenting the deceptive practices of the CPC, quietly spreading the word in the community, writing, editing, and practicing testimony, and readying the community voices that needed to be heard. My hands were shaking and my voice was raspy as I signed my name on the list to speak first in the lineup of Hartford residents. Regular anti-choice protestors I see outside the clinic stood around the table calling out "Erica, why are you spending so much time looking at the list, what are you doing, Erica? Erica?"-- all in attempt to intimidate. I took a deep breath and said to myself, "Breathe. This is it. We've prepared and brought all the voices in this room. The community is behind you. You've got this."

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Just before the doors of the hearing room opened, the chairman stood up on the table outside the door to address the crowd: residents first, non-residents second. The divide was clear: Outsiders showed up with an anti-choice agenda. Hartford residents showed up to support transparency and honesty. This is what they had to say... 

It’s important that we listen to stories of women, that we hear their voices, that we hear their truths... and to make sure that women in our community, especially low-income black and brown women who this primarily impacts, and residents of Hartford who this primarily impacts, are at the center of the conversation. This is about transparency and honesty.
— Bulaong Ramiz-Hall, Hartford resident
Since the opening of the crisis pregnancy center in our courtyard, I have been collecting stories from our patients. I know that you can hear the energy in my voice tonight because I have sat in the waiting room with our patients and listened to their stories about being confused and intercepted by the crisis pregnancy center. It is heartbreaking for me to see... we have seen patients chased, lied to, and scared.
— Erica Crowley, Hartford resident, Organizer & Volunteer Coordinator, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut & Hartford GYN Center
I’ve encountered people from the CPC and they have never been positive experiences. Over the summer I’ve had the misfortune of watching them become more predatory and aggressive. Just this summer I’ve been followed on foot by representatives who demanded to know if I was there for an abortion or birth control. I was told estrogen and birth control cause cancer, and that they can reverse the abortion pill, in fact that’s on the little card that they pass out. I was approached by someone who represented herself as a nurse.
— Erica, Hartford resident and patient, Hartford GYN Center
I am a mother, a grandmother, a Hartford resident, a co-founder of Moral Monday Connecticut, and a woman of faith. I am appalled at the arrogance of the “Hartford Women’s Center” to blatantly attempt to confuse, mislead, and deceive women looking for legitimate medical care at the Hartford GYN Center... Voices like these claim a moral authority, as if women don’t have the agency to determine what is right for them, their families, or communities.
— Lady Pamela Selders and Bishop John Selders, Moral Monday CT
The deceptive practices of Crisis Pregnancy Centers are dangerous for many reasons, but I want to bring to your attention one glaring reason that I’ve recognized. That is the issue of reproductive healthcare access for LGBT+ people, particularly LGBT+ youth like myself... Members of the LGBT+ community, especially LGBT+ youth of color, have a higher risk of having an unintended pregnancy, HIV, and experiencing sexual violence. Additionally, LGBT+ youth, especially transgender youth of color, experience high rates of violence against them. I am concerned about what could happen to a young queer person who accidentally walks through the wrong door when they are seeking medical care.
— Xena, Hartford resident, intern at True Colors, Inc.
I just want to say I’m astonished by how many nonresidents are here tonight... To listen to you come into my city, and say you people are too ignorant to make your own decisions, is offensive. Council — we voted for you to represent us. Not to represent East Granby.
— Kamora Herrington, Hartford resident
I’ve been a Hartford City Resident for 25 years as well as a Women’s Health Provider here in the city, providing care to women and their families in the metropolitan area as a Certified Nurse Midwife... Too often, communities of color or poor communities have been the target of misrepresentation, outright lies and yes, human rights abuses by organizations or authorities in the guise of “helping” them... I applaud the Mayor and Council’s efforts to pass the ordinance. Join me on being “with women”—the true meaning of Midwife.
— Polly Moran, Hartford resident and Certified Nurse Midwife
Do they understand the needs and challenges of the women in our community? In my community? What I see is shaming of women as they are seeking services from a licensed family planning clinic.
— Jenevieve Thompson, Hartford resident, MSW Policy student, University of Connecticut School of Social Work
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Author: Erica Crowley, Organizer & Volunteer Coordinator, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut and Hartford GYN Center

Support your Local Abortion Provider! Interview with Hartford GYN's Patient Advocates

This week we sat down with a patient advocate at Hartford GYN Center. Patient Advocates meet with patients coming in to Hartford GYN Center to provide them with realistic and medically-accurate information about abortion, adoption and parenthood. The counseling is designed to give resources and support needed to the patient so she can make a pregnancy decision that is best for her and her family.

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Q: What services are offered at Hartford GYN Center?
A: We offer medication abortion (abortion by pill), surgical abortion procedures, and GYN Services including annual GYN exams, pelvic exams, breast exams, Pap smears, STI/HIV testing, STI treatment, pregnancy testing, low cost emergency contraception, birth control, and more.

Q: Can you walk us through options counseling?
A: Every patient that has an appointment receives pre-procedure counseling on the day of their appointment. We review with patients the certainty of their choice, if anyone is forcing them to make the decision, and how much support they feel they have or don't have. Sometimes the counseling is more focused on emotion, especially if the patient has addressed that they are still unsure about their decision. We always make sure the patient understands the process and is safe and sure of her decision. 

Q: Sometimeswe have heard anti-choice myths about the “abortion business” and counselors who pressure women into choosing abortion so that they can profit. How do you respond to that?
A: I think that myth comes from the stigma around abortion, and people tend to feed into the idea that anyone that works as an abortion counselor is mainly only counseling them and “pressuring” or “guiding” women into believing their only and best choice is abortion, which is not the case. Speaking for myself and my fellow advocates here in the clinic we do not pressure women into choosing abortion. It is our job to make sure that any woman that comes into our clinic is ready and sure about their decision. If we sense that they are unsure, being pressured by another person, or have not reviewed any other possible option besides abortion, we advise them to go home and think it through. We do not send any patient to an operating room without being sure that an abortion is something they are confident about. 

Q: What else would you like people to know about your experiences with counseling, or about the work of Hartford GYN?
A: Having the opportunity to work here and being able to provide women with options, safety, and a place where they are not being judged is amazing and one of the best experiences I have had in my life. Harford GYN Center has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people that believe in the same thing I do. I have been able to develop a more of an open mind to different situations that our patients may face and it has blessed me with the chance to make a positive change in someone’s life.  

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Authors: Lena and Erin, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut Grassroots Advocacy & Policy Interns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communities Need Clinics! But Anti-Choice Groups are in Our Backyard...

Right now, women in Hartford are being misled and deceived when they are seeking their reproductive health care at Hartford GYN Center. Hartford GYN Center is Connecticut's last independent state-licensed family planning clinic that has been offering compassionate abortion care and comprehensive reproductive health care in the Hartford community for 36 years. Independent clinics like Hartford GYN Center provide care to people who now and historically have faced the most barriers to healthcare-- including immigrant communities, LGBTQ+ patients, and patients who are struggling to make ends meet. Patients choose Hartford GYN Center because they know that licensed medical providers will put them first with dignity, compassion, and respect.

Around the country, and right here in Connecticut, anti-choice extremists are attempting to force independent clinics like Hartford GYN Center to close at an alarming rate. In May 2017, an anti-abortion organization, St. Gerard's Center for Life, moved into the building two arm lengths away from Hartford GYN Center. Upon moving, St. Gerard's has renamed as "Hartford Women's Center" with the intent to confuse and deceive patients who are seeking legitimate medical care. "Hartford Women's Center" is one of almost 30 crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in Connecticut. CPCs endanger health by using deceptive advertising and practices to present themselves as comprehensive reproductive health clinics to lure unsuspecting people inside. Once inside, people are often given false medical information, subjected to pressure and shameful rhetoric about their decisions, and blocked from accessing legitimate medical care.

 

In Hartford, we see these deceptive practices occurring nearly every day. A few weeks ago, a patient was offered $50 and a free ultrasound just outside the clinic. A week before that, a patient and her mother were deceived and told their counseling appointment was in "Hartford Women's Center." Once inside, an anti-choice volunteer told this young woman she may not make it out alive if she chose a surgical abortion and that there was no abortion clinic nearby. These deceptive and manipulative tactics are all at the core of the mission of crisis pregnancy centers such as "Hartford Women's Center:" to convince people to carry their pregnancies to term, no matter what.

The deceptive practices of "Hartford Women's Center" are a disruption in the Hartford community and a danger to time sensitive reproductive health care. CPCs such as Hartford Women's Center, in conjunction with large numbers of anti-choice sidewalk protestors are the ground-level presence of the anti-choice movement. 

At NARAL Pro-Chocie Connecticut, we believe that any person seeking reproductive health care should be able to do so without confusion, deception, or shame, and that it is every person's decision to decide if, how, and when to have a family. To get involved with us and the REAL CLINIC Hartford GYN join us at Expose Fake Clinics: 12th & Delaware Screening & DiscussionCan't make it? Sign-up for our updates here: http://bit.ly/1LaEK44

Author: Erica Crowley, Organizer & Volunteer Coordinator

Our Weekend with Lady Parts Justice League

It was a weekend of hysterical laughter and tears in our eyes with Lady Parts Justice League in town. We were honored to host this hilarious group of badass feminists for the weekend to support Hartford GYN Center, Connecticut's last independent abortion clinic. The Lady Parts Justice League visits independent clinics around the country to support them in any way that is needed. 

On Saturday night we all gathered at Hanging Hills Brewing Company in Hartford for a night of Dirty Bingo. The brewery was packed as Lady Parts Justice League ran the show-- but instead of playing "BINGO" we played "DILDO." Between the games we had mini-dance parties, photo shoots with Eunice the Uterus, and some serious talks about the amazing abortion and reproductive health care provided at Hartford GYN Center.

 
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Lady Parts Justice League let the crowd know that Hartford GYN Center has recently experienced the move-in of an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center, St. Gerard's Center for Life, which is now doing business as "Hartford Women's Center" about ten feet away with the intention of deceiving and intercepting patients as they walk to appointments. To distinguish Hartford GYN Center, the real clinic, from "Hartford Women's Center," the fake clinic, Lady Parts Justice League used the funds raised in Dirty Bingo to paint a yellow brick road to unbiased, non-judgmental reproductive health care.

 
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Every day, the providers at Hartford GYN Center experience extremist sidewalk protestors and the presence of a crisis pregnancy center all while providing high-quality, compassionate reproductive healthcare. On a day-to-day basis we all do hard emotional work. Being with the Lady Parts Justice League for the weekend reminded us all that we can hold each other through the harder times, and that we can challenge hate with love, laughter, and a yellow brick road. 

Author: Erica Crowley, Organizer & Volunteer Coordinator

Statement of Support

In response to recent news reports on the culture of harassment at the state capital in South Dakota, NARAL Pro-Choice America and NARAL affiliates in states across the country issued the following statement:

“Me, too.”  Over the last couple of weeks, the hashtag #MeToo – a campaign created by Tarana Burke, an African-American woman and sexual violence survivor advocate, over 10 years ago – has flooded social media platforms as people publicly share that they are survivors of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual violence.  There are many of us who have been directly impacted by the sexual violence that is so pervasive in our culture. And each of us, whether we know it or not, knows someone who has been raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, or otherwise subjected to sexual violence by an assailant who thought they had the right to exert power and control over someone else.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 80% of survivors know the person who raped them. This means it is our friends, family members, coworkers, employers, acquaintances, neighbors, and others we know who are committing this form of violence against us, and it must end now.

We lift up the voices of all of the women, trans folks, men, children, elders, college students, and others who speak truth to power about the violence that was done to them, and we hold those who do not feel safe speaking out in our hearts. Among those who have spoken out is our colleague and friend, Samantha Spawn with NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota. We lift her up for sharing her story to illuminate the culture of toxic masculinity and violence that perpetuates too many halls of government and too many private spheres.

And why are we speaking out? Because you know what? Us, too.

We see you, Samantha.

We believe you, Samantha.

We stand in solidarity with you, Samantha; and with all survivors.

In Solidarity,

NARAL Pro-Choice America
NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona

NARAL Pro-Choice California
NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado
NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut

NARAL Pro-Choice Iowa
NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia
NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland
NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota
NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri
NARAL Pro-Choice Montana

NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada
NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio
NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon
NARAL Pro-Choice Texas
NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia
NARAL Pro-Choice Washington
NARAL Pro-Choice Wyoming

We Are Not in the Fight Alone: A Health Care Action Summit Recap

It's a frightening time to live in the United States, for so many reasons, but one is the very real concern that millions could lose access to affordable healthcare. This threat feels even more imminent when it comes to accessing reproductive healthcare.

It can sometimes feel overwhelming to do the work of a reproductive healthcare advocate, and there have been more than a few days in the past months when I have gone home feeling completely defeated, feeling helpless in the face of seemingly unending assaults on my right to bodily autonomy, and the rights of countless others in our state and in the nation. In those moments, it helps to remember that I'm not doing this work alone.

On Saturday, October 14, the NARAL CT staff attended the Health Care Action Summit, hosted by the Universal Health Care Foundation. Nearly 100 activists joined together to listen to speeches, attend a morning panel discussion, and participate in workshops on issues related to healthcare access.

The day started with a presentation by Jacob Hacker, Director of the Institution for Social & Policy Studies at Yale University, and a plenary with Mr. Hacker, Tekisha Everette of Health Equity Solutions, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, and Tim Foley, of the SEIU CT State Council. The group discussed the current moment in healthcare advocacy, and where we go from here. The discussion was wonderful and here are just a few of the quotes that stuck with me:

"The most perverse part of our current system is the way that it divides us." - Jacob Hacker
(reminding us that the system is built to tell us--falsely--that there are limited resources, that there are some who "deserve"
and some who don't)

"Don't let them off the hook on healthcare just because they don't vote on healthcare."
- Kevin Lembo

(urging everyone to ask candidates in municipal elections where they stand on these issues)

"Let's make sure that as we build our next, great iteration, that we center equity in the conversation." - Tekisha Everette
(reminding us that we have to center marginalized groups in any discussion of healthcare in order for it to be
a discussion worth having)

 
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In the morning I attended a workshop on health equity with Tekisha Everette and Claudine Constant from Health Equity Solutions. I learned more about the concept of "language inequity," how to make sure the right voices are at the table, and the importance of thinking non-traditionally about healthcare. It helped me to reflect on NARAL's work and how we can do better in forming active partnerships and centering the voices of underserved communities in reproductive rights work. 

The afternoon workshop was on storytelling as a tool for advocacy, with Micaela Blei and Onnesha Roychoudhuri, Co-Founders of Speech/Act. We had the chance to learn more about how to tell an effective story, how and when to tell your own story vs. someone else's story, and we had the chance to practice our own stories with other activists in the room.

 
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I worked through my own personal story of being unable to afford health insurance before the ACA because of a pre-existing condition, and how dehumanizing it was to have an insurance company boil my existence down to cold numbers, and inform me that my life was a liability they could not afford. That moment is always with me in the work that I do, and being able to use that story to advocate for the rights of others makes it feel more like an empowering moment, instead of a dehumanizing one.

It was one of those crucial days that reminded me that I don't do this work alone, and even though there is so very much work to be done, I have colleagues and comrades who will stand with me as I do it.

Author: Brenna Doyle, Operations Coordinator

The First Line of Defense: Hartford GYN’s Clinic Escort Team

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It’s not unusual to see a small group of protesters praying outside of Hartford GYN Center, Connecticut’s last independent abortion clinic. On the morning that I interviewed Hartford GYN’s clinic escort team, however, thirty-six protesters stood shoulder-to-shoulder chanting the Hail Mary. Facing the protesters from about five-feet away stand the clinic escorts, a volunteer group that walks patients to and from the clinic. Although there’s no shouting or arguing between the two groups, there’s a palpable tension that heightens with every new chorus of Ave Maria. It’s a scene that one might expect to see outside abortion clinics across the Bible Belt of America, but not here in a ‘blue state’ like Connecticut.

“In an ideal world we wouldn’t have protestors, and then we wouldn’t need escorts outside,” says Erica, Organizer and Volunteer Coordinator at Hartford GYN and NARAL, Pro-Choice Connecticut,  “It would be just like walking into any other doctor’s appointment, but unfortunately that’s not the world we live in.” 

The number of protesters has been steadily increasing since St. Gerard’s Center for Life opened ‘The Hartford Women’s Center’, a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC), right next door in May. The Hartford Women’s Center and Hartford GYN Center stand in uncomfortable proximity; a small courtyard is all that separates the two brick buildings. In addition to adopting a plagiarized name, the CPC has also attempted to brand itself as a healthcare facility with window signs asking ‘Pregnant? Need Help?’. Their door is kept ajar so that a cozy-looking waiting area--complete with sofas and a Keurig--is easily visible to anyone walking past.The CPC’s strategic location and advertisements make their motive painfully clear: to deliberately target patients who are arriving to, or leaving from their appointments at the clinic. Erica has also noticed that the CPC’s volunteer ‘counsellors’ hover in the doorway and call out to patients coming out of the clinic.

“I think they want them to come in for counselling after they’ve had an abortion,” says Erica. “They really stress this myth of post-abortion stress disorder; while there are a lot of reasons why someone might be stressed before, after, or during an abortion, the most common feeling is relief.” 

To combat the CPC’s dangerous efforts to infringe on Hartford women’s ability to freely choose and access abortion, Hartford GYN has mobilized a team of dedicated clinic escort volunteers. Clinic escorts, recognizable by their signature pink vests, are assembling across the country where anti-choice groups are restricting accessibility to abortion services. By offering patients the option to be escorted, as Erica explains, “patients don’t have to worry about confronting protesters or finding their way through the courtyard; they can just follow the pink vest, and that’s all they have to worry about.”

With protesters outnumbering pink vests most days, volunteers have to act extra vigilantly to ensure that every patient is given the option to be escorted. Charles, who has been volunteering every Saturday since July, has noticed that the Hartford protesters--even in swelling numbers--usually engage passive aggressive forms of protest. “They’ll be out on the sidewalk, reading their literature, singing and chanting,” says Charles. “Sometimes they’ll get a little more aggressive with patients and try and approach them and berate them.”

Moments before sitting down with another clinic escort, Liam, we witnessed a protester become hostile as a patient left the clinic: The protester followed the patient out to their car, which was parked on the side of the busy intersection between Franklin and Main. When the patient ignored the protester’s advances and got in their car, the protester walked out into the street to continue knocking on the window and shouting to get the patient’s attention. “That was distracting to the driver; that could have been an accident.” says Liam. “The protesters tend to get very passionate and don’t think about these things.” Liam recounts that on his first shift he noticed that, “the protestors would physically approach people without any invitation from the other party. They would be touchy-feely with patients.” This was not an isolated incident; Liam says he’s seen similar advances “at least ten times” since.

Although praying the rosary is obviously preferable to heckling and stalking--or in some states, the showcase of guns and other weapons--it remains wholly unjustifiable to disrupt a patient’s legal right to get an abortion. Angelica, whose first clinic escort shift was the CPC’s opening day, says that “their mere presence on the sidewalk contributes to the unnecessary stigma and shame wrongfully associated with getting an abortion.”

For Jamie, being a clinic escort means not only combating the stigma of abortion, but also standing up for women’s hard-earned reproductive rights: “It’s not like one day men woke up and said, ‘Let’s do right by the gals’. We have to be ever vigilant. If we sit back and be complacent then we’ll be right back where we started. There’s only one abortion clinic left in Kentucky. And here we are, the last independent clinic in a ‘blue state’.”

As a white male, Charles feels it is especially important for him to show up where women’s rights are under attack: “Today’s political climate has people who look like me, white men, trying to take away women’s rights and minorities’ rights. I need more people who stand up and say, ‘No we denounce this’.’”

Encouragingly, as the crowd of protesters continues to grow, Hartford GYN also has experienced an influx of volunteers. Right now, Hartford GYN is prioritizing gaining better representation among the volunteering team: “We’re a community clinic, so we’re working on intentionally recruiting Hartford residents as volunteers,” says Erica. “It’s important that our volunteers are representative of our patients.”

As clinic escort myself, I can attest that there is no more effective way to understand the mind and methods of the opposition than by sharing a sidewalk with them. Standing across from those who are diametrically opposed to your beliefs, while at the very same time standing beside your passionate allies, makes clinic escorting the one of the most jarring and enlightening volunteer experiences.

Author: Sam, volunteer clinic escort at Hartford GYN Center

If you are interested in joining the clinic escort team or volunteering with Hartford GYN you can visit the Volunteer Website