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‘We’re going to protect you': Connecticut officials applaud law that expands abortion protections

Legislators and advocates for women's health care gather around Gov. Ned Lamont May 10 at the state Capitol during a bill-signing ceremony for expanded abortion protections.
Mark Mirko
Connecticut Public
Legislators and advocates for women's health care gather around Gov. Ned Lamont on May 10 at the state Capitol during a bill-signing ceremony for expanded abortion protections.

State leaders and lawmakers are celebrating Connecticut becoming a “safe harbor” for abortion services at a time when other states around the country seek to ban or criminalize abortion care in anticipation of a Roe v. Wade reversal.

Legislators gathered in Hartford Tuesday to celebrate the passage of the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act, which expands the abortion care provider field and establishes legal protections for clinicians and patients.

“We want women outside of our state to know that they are welcome in our state, because we will help them with the health care that they need,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said.

Gov. Ned Lamont formally signed the bill into law last week, just days after a leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion draft indicated that the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade will likely be reversed.

Connecticut’s new law specifically allows advance practice nurses to perform suction abortions, also called vacuum aspirations. These providers are already able to prescribe medication abortions.

The law also provides legal protections to Connecticut clinicians and patients, including out-of-state residents coming to Connecticut from states with abortion bans.

The measure forbids state agencies and health providers from cooperating and aiding in lawsuits waged by people in other states where the practice will be illegal.

“If you try and come after our doctors, you try and come after women who come into this state or women in this state -- not going to happen here,” Lamont said. “We’re going to protect you."

States like California and New York are pursuing protections in legislation similar to Connecticut’s law, which takes effect July 1.

While polling shows that a majority of people in Connecticut support abortion, a smaller, but vocal minority of opponents have vowed to protest new and existing state laws that permit abortion.

More than 2,000 abortion opponents marched in a rally in Hartford earlier this year championing the reversal of Roe.

In the state legislature, Democrats continue to hold a supermajority, and a majority of members have voted in favor of abortion protections.

Sen. Heather Somers of Groton was among four Republicans in the state Senate who joined Democrats in passing the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act.

“I never thought in my lifetime that I would be someone who would experience this right being rolled back,” Somers said, referring to the pending Supreme Court decision. “Having that right, and knowing that you have that right, is so crucial to us as women.”

Early in the legislative process, when bills around abortion expansion and protections were still being debated in committee, Democratic Rep. Aimee Berger-Girvalo of Ridgefield shared with colleagues that she had had an abortion.

“I felt that I couldn’t let the opportunity go,” she said in Hartford Tuesday. “In doing so, so many have come to me to talk about their stories ... to tell me they also are not ashamed of the choice that they made.”

A final Supreme Court opinion is expected sometime this summer.

Video: Watch the bill-signing ceremony

Gov. Ned Lamont's bill-signing ceremony for reproductive rights legislation

Nicole Leonard joined Connecticut Public Radio to cover health care after several years of reporting for newspapers. In her native state of New Jersey, she covered medical and behavioral health care, as well as arts and culture, for The Press of Atlantic City. Her work on stories about domestic violence and childhood food insecurity won awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

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