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Lamont pledges to sign abortion-rights bill

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YEHYUN KIM / CTMIRROR.ORG
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Janée Woods Weber, executive director at Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund, speaks in support of reproductive rights. Gov. Ned Lamont held a news conference to reaffirm his commitment to ensuring that Connecticut remains a state that protects reproductive rights.

Gov. Ned Lamont committed Tuesday to signing abortion rights legislation that combines two measures — one intended to broaden access, another to strengthen legal protections— into one bill the House expected to pass by day’s end.

Coming as the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing restrictions on abortion, proponents say passage of the measures would reaffirm Connecticut’s commitment to abortion rights while increasing access to early-term abortions at clinics.

“We thought that women had the full range of reproductive choice, going back to Roe v. Wade, going back 50 years when I was young,” Lamont said. “And it’s incredible that it’s back on the front burner.”

One bill would allow advanced-practice clinicians to perform abortions by suction, also known as vacuum aspiration. It is the most common method of in-clinic abortions and can be performed by clinicians other than doctors in 14 other states.

Amanda Skinner, the president of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said the advance-practice change would increase the number of abortion providers and shorten what is now a two-week wait for first-trimester abortions.

Skinner and Janée Woods Weber, the executive director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, joined Lamont at a press conference that made clear the governor’s support ahead of passage in the House.

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YEHYUN KIM / CTMIRROR.ORG
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Amanda Skinner, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, answers a question from the media.

“We will never achieve gender equity or economic equity without full reproductive freedom,” Woods Weber said.

The other bill is intended to provide a legal “safe harbor” to women from states with restrictive abortion laws who get abortions in Connecticut, as well as the clinicians who provide them.

The latter provision is partly a reaction to a Texas law that creates a private right of action for anyone to sue patients or providers involved in abortions performed after a fetal heartbeat is detected, generally about six weeks.

“It’s almost like vigilante justice,” Lamont said of the Texas law. “You know —‘We’ll pay you if you give us information that somebody that tried to secure an abortion, even out of state.’”

The bill would restrict how health care records could be accessed by plaintiffs in those so-called civil “bounty” cases, and it would give the targets a legal right in Connecticut to recover legal costs.

Lawmakers were huddled off the House floor for much of the day, crafting an amendment and addressing concerns that early legislative language was overly broad and potentially unconstitutional.

“It’s creating a cause of action for anyone to come into Connecticut, to bring third party lawsuits for judgments that might have been held against them in other states. And so that sort of impacts the notion that states are allowed to govern themselves,” said House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford.

Connecticut has not made significant changes in abortion law since 1990, when the state codified in state law the tenets of Roe v. Wade, the decision that barred states from prohibiting abortions in the first 12-week trimester.

But the issue is back in anticipation of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority revising Roe when it rules on a Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said the Connecticut House was primed to act.

“I think there are many members like me — I’ve been here 14 years — who’ve never really had to debate a ‘choice’ bill. But given the climate that we now exist in, where we have states moving in the direction that we are, it’s bringing it back to our legislative agenda,” Rojas said. “We’re going to take action to ensure that we protect Connecticut residents and perhaps other people who might come to Connecticut to avail themselves of that right.”

Jenna Carlesso contributed to this story.