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Abortion rights bill passes CT House, with Lamont in support

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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 that the House passed 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.”

The bill had electoral as well as policy implications, giving the first-term Democratic governor and lawmakers an opportunity to highlight their defense of reproductive rights in an election year.

The bill passed on 87-60 vote that blurred party lines.

Fourteen Democrats, including 10 members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, voted in opposition. Seven Republicans, including Rep. Laura Devlin of Fairfield, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, voted in support.

The bill provided the first opportunity for Rep. Treneé McGee, D-West Haven, a rarity in the House Democratic caucus as an outspoken opponent of abortion, to speak about abortion in a House debate since her election in a special election in December.

Rep. Treneé McGee broke with her House Democratic caucus over abortion in her first House speech.

McGee, who is Black, said too many African-American girls were taught to think of abortion as just another form of birth control, and the Black community had far more desperate needs than expanded access to abortion.

“I want to speak to the history of this industry and why I think it’s destructive to my community,” McGee said. “Black women make up 14% of child-bearing population yet obtained 36.2% of all reported abortions. Black women have the highest abortion ratio in the country — 474 abortions per 1,000 live births.”

Black and Puerto Rican Caucus members, including some who voted for the bill, posed for a photo after the vote with McGee, who said their support was important to her.

The day began with Lamont pledging his support in a press conference with two proponents of reproductive rights who portrayed the legislation as a politically symbolic and substantive policy advance.

One bill would allow advanced-practice clinicians such A.P.R.N.s and physician assistants 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.

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