Planned Parenthood of Southern New England says it will halt use of federal funds following the enforcement of new rules that prevent abortion referrals.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk Jacqueline Rabe Thomas /

Senate Democrats pledged Friday to replenish $2.1 million in federal funds the Trump administration has stripped from Planned Parenthood clinics in the region.

But it remains to be seen whether the lawmakers will be able to maneuver around a state spending cap that will continue to clamp down on spending in the coming year.

Democrats, who control 22 out of 36 seats in the Senate, also continued to unveil a 2020 agenda Friday that includes initiatives to prevent youth suicides and age discrimination, expand access to diaper changing stations, and bar “captive audience” meetings and non-disclosure agreements that silence victims of sexual harassment.

“There’s been an assault on health care coming out of Washington, D.C. over the last three-and-a half years at the White House and it’s been a direct assault on women’s health care,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk.

The federal Title X Family Planning Program, enacted in 1970, is the only federal grant dedicated exclusively to subsidizing comprehensive family planning and related health services. Planned Parenthood lost funding after refusing to abide by a change in the Title X program implemented by the Trump administration — one that bars clinics from telling patients how and where to access abortion services.

Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, which operates 16 health centers across Connecticut, has lost an estimated $2.1 million in annual federal funding, according to the Senate Democratic Caucus. Duff said the goal is to replace those lost dollars with state funds in the coming fiscal year.

But there is a budgetary obstacle which could prove difficult.

Democratic and Republican state lawmakers agreed on a more rigid spending cap to help end a nearly year-long budget battle in November 2017. The preliminary $22.1 billion budget Gov. Ned Lamont and legislators agreed upon last May for the 2020-21 fiscal year falls a mere $5 million under that cap.

And the recommendation for Planned Parenthood is not the only proposal to add to that budget. Lawmakers, who typically recommend tens of millions of dollars in spending adjustments to the budget, already are talking about reversing a $5.3 million cut to nursing homes next fiscal year.

This raises the question of whether Senate Democrats are looking to legally exceed the spending cap, which is possible but very complex, requiring support from both Gov. Ned Lamont and Republican lawmakers — all of whom have been reluctant to take that step.

Or would the caucus favor cutting other programs to free up funds for new initiatives like Planned Parenthood?

“We have lots of priorities, obviously, and we’re going to have to work through them during the session,” Duff said. But he added that “We wouldn’t announce this today if it wasn’t something we were serious about.”

Other proposals on the Senate Democratic agenda unveiled Friday include:

  • Taking several steps to combat youth suicide. These could include educational efforts to increase awareness of suicide prevention services, introducing new legislation to curb cyber-bullying, expanding training for teachers and others to recognize at-risk youth.
  • Mandating that all new and substantially renovated buildings with public restrooms include diaper changing stations in restrooms for both genders, and not just for women.
  • Barring businesses from making non-disclosure agreements with separating employees that prohibit departing workers from discussing instances of sexual harassment or gender discrimination.
  • Barring “captive audience” meetings during which companies can force employees to listen to employer-sponsored discussions on labor, political or religious issues.
  • Prohibiting age discrimination by preventing employers from requiring applicants to list their age or date of graduation on a written or electronic application.
  • Requiring municipal and state police officers to receive training on the use of Narcan and EpiPens, and to carry these items — which are used to reverse opioid overdoses.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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  1. Its always heartwarming to know that Democrats are leading the fight to preserve taxpayer funding for abortions on demand by the millions. Its fortunate for them that they all survived the procedure themselves.

  2. I”m sorry, once you have seen the medical waste which are the remains of a late term abortion procedure. You will possess a heavy heart, and have much to ponder from an ethical and moral viewpoint. Early term abortions can be an acceptable procedure. Late term abortions…I cant even say what I think

  3. Prioritize the additional regulations on business listed as goals for this year so the Democrats can accelerate the.flight of business from a punishing environment instead of providing funding for abortions. We can fight back. Unborn babies cannot.

  4. This is especially ridiculous since CT is broke. Its amazing how CT’S Democrats keep coming up with new ways to spend money that we don’t have.

  5. According to the latest data, 69 million “fetal tissues” has been aborted since Rowe vs Wade. Good to know or representatives are more worried about spending more money than living within their means.

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