‘A dangerous precedent’: Abortion remains legal in CT, but experts sound alarm on SCOTUS decision
Abortion remains legal in Connecticut, despite Friday's U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the nationwide right to abortion. The Supreme Court now leaves it up to states to decide whether to allow abortion, and state law in Connecticut allows patients to decide if they want to end a pregnancy, until the fetus is viable.
While Connecticut hardened its legal protections this year to protect abortion access and the right of people seeking reproductive healthcare from out of state, local legal experts say the Supreme Court's ruling is a major decision that ended 50 years of federal abortion rights in the United States.
“Nationally, it is huge,” said Jilda Aliotta, a University of Hartford politics professor. “There have been estimates that between 20 and 26 states are expected to outlaw or sharply restrict abortion access.”
In the short term, she said Connecticut will not be affected by the abortion bans that are expected to go into effect in many Republican-held states.
“But there is the prospect that if Republicans control both houses of Congress, there could be a national abortion ban,” she said, referencing the role of future elections. “And if that happens, that will affect people in Connecticut.”
In anticipation of this, advocates said state lawmakers must invest in marginalized communities. That includes increasing funding for reproductive healthcare, especially to help address the Black maternal mortality crisis.
“That means ensuring they have access to quality housing and good paying jobs,” said Claudine Constant, public policy and advocacy director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “And making sure that our doctors are trained to believe Black women when they say they’re experiencing some kind of pain and/or trauma - [that] can often help in decreasing our maternal mortality rates when it comes to Black and brown folks.”
In addition to raising concerns about access to healthcare for communities of color, legal experts say the decision could affect rights of other vulnerable communities.
“I think that people are definitely justified in being very concerned about the future of other very important liberty and privacy rights that have been protected under the U.S. Constitution for decades,” said Katherine Kraschel, executive director of the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School.
The court’s majority decision was made on the basis that the constitution doesn’t mention an explicit right to abortion, she said. The 1973 ruling on Roe V. Wade was based on an interpretation of the liberty rights in the 14th amendment.
Other rulings could be at risk, according to Kraschel, under the separate written opinion issued by Justice Clarence Thomas that goes further than the majority opinion that this decision solely affects the right to abortion.
“Justice Thomas's concurrence actually paints a rather ominous preview of how far the Supreme Court may go if they continue to follow this line of reasoning about the liberty rights that are in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution,” she said. “That includes cases that were decided, assuring a right to contraception [and] the cases that established a right for marriage for same sex couples.”
Kraschel said while the decision is not a surprise, since it came weeks after a leaked opinion that hinted at the end of abortion rights previously protected by the court, it’s still a day that will go down in history.
“This is not business as usual for the Supreme Court,” Kraschel told Connecticut Public on Friday. “Today marks the first day that the highest court in our nation has stripped us of a constitutional right that it's previously protected.”