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CT senators push for bill to protect abortion seekers across state lines

(L-R) Planned Parenthood of Southern New England Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nancy Stanwood, President and CEO Amanda Skinner, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal advocate for abortion protections at a press conference at Planned Parenthood New Haven following overturn of Roe v. Wade. On July 1, a Connecticut law will go into effect expanding the types of health care providers who can perform certain kinds of abortion procedures.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
From left, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nancy Stanwood, President and CEO Amanda Skinner and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal advocate for abortion protections at a news conference at Planned Parenthood New Haven after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

A bill that would protect people traveling across state lines for abortion care failed to pass the U.S. Senate on Thursday. But Connecticut reproductive rights advocates say the legislation is critical to protecting the basic right to travel and bodily autonomy.

Abortion-rights advocates and Connecticut U.S. senators held a virtual videoconference call Friday morning to talk about the importance of the bill.

“In those 25 states, where there are bans and possibly more, there may also be criminal penalties and civil actions possible against not only the patients and women who seek the services, but also against providers and against employers who helped them,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a co-sponsor of the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act. “The consequences require action by the United States Congress to clarify and solidify the right to travel across state lines to receive essential health care in reproductive rights and abortion services.”

The bill comes after Missouri proposed legislation that would prevent interstate travel from states with abortion bans to states like Connecticut, where abortion remains legal. The Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act would preempt any state law that would prevent someone from traveling for abortion care. And it would shield health care providers from legal action for providing care to someone from an anti-abortion state.

The act would go hand in hand with a recent Connecticut bill that welcomes people from out of state to seek abortion in the state.

“Connecticut provides a safe harbor, as any state can do. But it can’t protect against those lawsuits in other states that may be pursued even without cooperation from the state,” Blumenthal said.

While Connecticut will not cooperate with legal action against individuals in other states, it can’t insulate people from prosecution when they return to their original state, Blumenthal added.

And that’s why the act is crucial.

Abortion-rights organizations in Connecticut agree.

“Restrictions on travel to access abortion are a threat and a blatant attack against women and all people who believe in bodily autonomy and the right to make our own choices about our futures,” said Janée Woods Weber, the executive director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund.

Woods Weber added that restrictions on travel are also classist and racist.

“We know affluent and even middle-class white women from those same places will always find a way to access safe abortion, even when abortion is banned and deeply restricted in the [states] where they live,” she added.

Low-income people and people of color in those same states may not have that luxury, Woods Weber said. And therefore, halting travel restrictions is just the first step in fighting for full reproductive freedom for everyone.

Camila Vallejo is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. She is a bilingual reporter based out of Fairfield County and welcomes all story ideas at cvallejo@ctpublic.org.

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