Tag Archives: reproductive rights

Dr. Janet Lefkowitz Reacts To A Post-Roe World

The Alabama woman was in her early 30s. She had an 8-year-old son. Now she was pregnant again,

But the father was no longer in the picture. And she had just been diagnosed with stomach cancer.

Her doctor refused to treat her. Though it was early in her pregnancy, drugs that could save her life might harm the cells in her uterus. In her state — and many others — that could be a felony.

Dr. Janet Lefkowitz was horrified by that story. And it was not hearsay. The woman was one of the 1983 Staples High School graduate’s patients.

Dr. Janet Lefkowitz

Dr. Lefkowitz does not live in Alabama. But once a month, she leaves New England — where she is an assistant professor at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, and affiliated with Women & Infants Hospital in Providence — and spends a week down South.

Her other title is medical director of reproductive health services for Alabama. The organization provides reproductive health care, advocacy and education throughout Planned Parenthood Southeast.

Until June 24, that included abortions. After last month’s Supreme Court decision, Dr. Lefkowitz could be arrested. Even if her patient was a victim of rape or incest.

Or 9 years old.

Or diagnosed with stomach cancer.

Dr. Lefkowitz did not set out to work as an obstetrician/gynecologist, or become a reproductive rights advocate. She did not even plan on becoming a doctor.

After Staples and Sarah Lawrence College, she did children’s theater. She temped.

But her family — including her father, orthopedist Dr. Larry Lefkowitz — and Temple Israel had imbued in her a strong belief in Tikkun Olam: acting as constructively and beneficially as possible, for as many people and as long as possible.

Eventually she found her way to medical school. During her OB/GYN residency in Hartford, she realized the field was perfect for her.

Her clinic work in places like Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile was fulfilling. She worked too with Mississippi’s Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the defendant in the seismic Supreme Court decisions.

Supreme Court members who decided Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Katanj Brown Jackson has since replaced Justice Stephen Breyer.

That ruling — a cause for anger, fear and despair in some Americans, relief and jubilation in others — was both expected by reproductive rights advocates. Still, the reality felt stunning.

“Abortion is safe, normal health care,” Dr. Lefkowitz says emphatically.

“The first priority of any doctor is that patients get the compassionate care they deserve. Abortion is part of that.”

The Supreme Court decision will not change access to abortion for “people with resources,” Dr. Lefkowitz says.

But those without — including marginalized populations —  will be “forced or coerced” to deliver a baby they may not be able to properly care for.

“We trust our patients. They know their bodies and themselves. Restricting healthcare for them is frustrating.”

Dr. Lefkowitz and her colleagues are turning their attention to “self-managed” abortions: pills. She calls them “safe and effective.” However, information about and access to that medication is no longer assured.

Her initial reaction to the Supreme Court decision was “sadness and numbness,” the doctor says. Now, the medical community is coming together to explore next steps.

Hundreds turned out for 3 pro-choice rallies in Westport this year. (Photo/Bobbi Essagof)

“We need to use our training and expertise to serve patients, to the best of our ability. Otherwise, they — and their families — will suffer.”

There is still a stigma around abortion, Dr. Lefkowitz notes. She is encouraged that in the wake of the Court’s ruling, women are speaking up about their experiences.

She adds, “We know the decision to have an abortion is not made lightly. Each story is personal. Everyone needs to hear the stories of those who feel they can tell them.”

Now, Dr. Lefkowitz is focusing on the realities of the Supreme Court’s judgment.

“If there’s a ‘heartbeat’ — really just electrical activity — doctors can’t do anything. If I see a fetal anomaly that’s not compatible with life” — for example, lack of brain development — “I can’t do anything. I’ve delivered those babies. They don’t live.”

She worries too about women who suffer ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages. New laws can lead to criminal investigations, of themselves and their doctors.

In fact, Dr. Lefkowitz says, because the situation is so unsettled, attorneys for Planned Parenthood in Alabama and Mississippi have told employees not to provide women with information about abortions in other states, or make referrals there.

Meanwhile, Dr. Lefkowitz can’t shake some of the images she’s witnessed — and wonders about those she may no longer see.

A mother took a day off work to bring her 15-year-old daughter — a victim of sexual assault — to a Southern clinic. The girl was just starting high school. A good student and athlete, her future had been bright.

She had an abortion, and moved on with her life.

Now, Dr. Lefkowitz says, she’d have to travel hundreds of miles.

Or have the baby.

“Abortion will always be a key part of healthcare,” Dr. Lefkowitz says.

“People need it. They need autonomy of their body. And they need to be able to care for the kids they already have.

“This decision doesn’t take away abortion. It takes away only safe, legal abortion. It’s sad, terrifying and frightening.

“All we want to do is help.”

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“Rally Against Regression” Draws Hundreds To Bridge

For the 3rd time in less than 2 months, hundreds of residents thronged the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, to show support for reproductive rights.

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

This time, they protested what they only feared twice before. On Friday, the Supreme Court declared Roe v. Wade — for 49 years, settled law affirming a right to abortion — unconstitutional.

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

The rally marked the second time that Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Jim Himes delivered forceful remarks about a woman’s right to choose to a Westport crowd.

Congressman Jim Himes speaks. Senator Richard Blumenthal and rally organizer Darcy Hicks look on. (Photo/Charlie Scott)

Other speakers included Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewiez, Governor Ned Lamont’s wife Annie, State Representative Stephanie Thomas, and DefenDemocracy rally co-organizer Darcy Hicks.

They spoke against a backdrop of flags of 193 nations — part of Westport’s annual jUNe Day celebration yesterday.

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker — who issued a statement yesterday affirming her commitment to protecting women’s rights to choose — was among the large crowd.

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, at today’s rally. (Photo/Charlie Scott)

Protestors included men as well as women, and families with young children.

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

(Photo/David Vita)

They were all ages, too.

(Photo/David Vita)

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

Crowds gather early, on both sides of the bridge. (Drone photo/Charlie Scott)

(Photo/Jerry Kuyper)

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

(Drone photo/Charlie Scott)

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

Many drivers honked in support. This one had their own sign. (Photo/David Vita)

(Photo/Charlie Scott)

Roundup: Rally Speaker, Cavalry Road Bridge, Wafu Brawl …

Tomorrow’s reproductive rights “Rally Against Regression” includes a high-profile speaker: Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz. The event begins at 11 a.m. Sunday, at the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

Last month — in anticipation of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling outlawing Roe v. Wade — Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill protecting medical providers, and patients seeking abortion care here who travel from states that outlaw it. The legislation — the first in the US — expands abortion access in the state, by expanding the practitioners eligible to perform certain types of care.

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Cavalry Road residents were up in arms recently. The long-running bridge replacement ended with a surprise: industrial-looking guardrails and a chain link fence suddenly appeared. Neighbors claimed they had not seen those in any previous plans. They appealed to officials in both Westport and Weston.

Late yesterday, Weston town administrator Jonathan Luiz said:

“The new bridge is open to traffic!

“We understand that Westport and Weston residents have concerns about the bridge. Staffs from both Weston and Westport have collated the concerns that were communicated to us in person, via email and by phone. The list was shared with the project engineer/designer who has already begun to examine each of the issues.

“At the advice of the Weston Police Chief and the Westport Police Chief, the Weston Public Works staff has performed stop sign related work near the bridge. Specifically, they have reset stop signs, repainted white stop bars on the ground, and cut back vegetation near a particular stop sign. A speed monitoring sign has also been placed near the bridge by Westport Police.

“Weston invites the public to attend a virtual meeting on Wednesday, July 6 at 7:30 p.m. for the purpose of discussing the concerns that have been raised to date. The Weston First Selectwoman, Weston Town Administrator, Westport staff, and the project engineer/designer will be in attendance. The meeting will be held via Zoom. To join via internet, use this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84296566039 To join via phone, dial: 646-558- 8656. The Webinar ID is 842 9656 6039.”

That’s a start, for sure. But I don’t see any reference to “guardrails” or a chain link fence anywhere in the Weston town administrator’s response.

Buckle up for that July 6 meeting.

Guardrail and fencing on the Cavalry Road bridge.

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As yesterday’s “06880” noted, Chris Bousquet’s “Gloria” — an ode to Alan Sterling’s oyster boat — is the theme song for a CPTV/PBS documentary about oystering in Connecticut.

The film airs just as the craft is in its final stages of disintegration. Gloria has floated — and broken apart — in Gray’s Creek, ever since owner Alan Sterling’s death nearly 8 years ago.

Bruce McFadden regularly paddles past. The other day, he snapped this sad — and perhaps final — shot:

(Photo/Bruce McFadden)

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Wafu is technically just over the town line, in Southport. But the Post Road restaurant has many Westport fans. They’re drawn by — as its website says – “the warmth of our hospitality and our pride in offering you an elegant combination of traditional Asian recipes and innovative sophisticated dishes.”

But it just got tougher to order a sake or Kirin with your meal.

Its liquor license has been suspended by the state Consumer Protection Commission. The action came after a “brawl” there last Sunday. At least 10 shots were fired, and one person was hit.

That was not an isolated instance. The day before, a patron was assaulted there. In March, 10 minors were served alcohol. A couple of weeks before that, the fire marshal closed Wafu, due to overcrowding. And in February a bouncer allegedly pepper-sprayed 6 guests.

WTF, Wafu? (Hat tip: Chris Grimm)

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Alan Fiore — the on-fire 2021 Staples High School graduate studying at Berklee College of Music — has just released his newest song.

“Locked Up” is an indie pop/rock tune, inspired by artists like Sarah and the Sunday, COIN, Why Don’t We and Jeremy Zucker.

Click here for a “Locked Up” link. Click here for the musician/producer’s website.

Alan Fiore

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Up next at the Remarkable Theater: “Caddyshack.”

The 1980 classic — starring our much loved (seriously!) late neighbor Rodney Dangerfield — screens at 8:30 p.m. Monday (June 27); gates open for tailgating at 7:30. Click here for tickets.

Fore!

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This stunning Northern catalpa sits at the entrance to Marion Road, off the Post Road near Norwalk. It’s a great way to celebrate “Westport … Naturally.”

(Photo/Mike Vitelli)

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And finally … in honor of Monday’s showing of “Caddyshack” at the Remarkable Theatre:

(Alright — just a reminder that “06880” relies completely on reader support. Please click here to donate.)

New Poet Laureate Reacts To Roe

Jessie McEntee does not become Westport’s poet laureate until July 1.

But in the wake of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that declared Roe v. Wade to be unconstitutional, she offered these thoughts:

Dear Westport neighbors:

This is admittedly a cringe-y and self-serving way of introducing myself. But as the poet laureate-appointee, I want to share a poem I wrote a few years back from my chapbook, a response to #MeToo.

Poet laureate-designee Jessica Noyes McIntee.

It might offend you if, say, you’re a rah rah handsy sexual harasser. If you’re anti-rah rah handsy sexual harasser, but you popped a bottle of Champagne at Friday’s news, you might read it as a way of saying, HANDS OFF, INDIVIDUAL HANDSY SEXUAL HARASSER.

If you’re anti-rah rah handsy sexual harasser AND you declined to pop a bottle of Champagne at Friday’s news, you might — just might — read it as a way of saying, HANDS OFF MY BODY on a larger scale. I leave it to your interpretation.

In Defense of Vulnerable Men

Temptresses;
hips spangled with store-bought stars,
lashes blackened with clarified soot,
and rows of roses planted upon our cheeks.
we sweep our lids with patches
yanked from clouds and seas.

Look at us —
how we ask for it
as we loll about in public parks,
midday, airing our breasts, necks —
in full view — all while saying,
Oh, no, we only want
attention from the summer’s sun.
(Does the town butcher ever declare,
I’d prefer not to
sell that pink ground chuck
I just put out on display,
bound in shimmering cellophane?)

We’re ubiquitous, diffuse —
we besmirch your efforts to stay pure
for the respectable women you keep on retainer.
You escape to church;
we become the frothing thuribles that circle about,
then the incense that swells the air,
all while we remain remote.

You’re the victims, here,
when you consider such provocations.
Why, when you think of how we tattoo ourselves
with secret codes
slipped into ankles, lower backs, divots —
aren’t those implicit dares
to come hither —
and, (please!) offer us
the favor of your closest translation?

Your Power dismantled,
your delicate manhood muddled —
you insist upon it:
we must be braille.
Fingers splayed, you lean in
to prove it.

Reproductive Rights Advocates Set Rally For Sunday

In the wake of today’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, local reproductive rights activists organized.

DefenDemocracy of CT announced a “Rally Against Regression” for this Sunday (June 26). It’s set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge over the Post Road in downtown Westport.