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CT will become a ‘safe harbor’ for abortion seekers on July 1. What does that mean?

Hundreds of people march in downtown New Haven to advocate for abortion rights on Friday when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Hundreds of people march in downtown New Haven to advocate for abortion rights on Friday when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion rights now fall to the states.

In Connecticut, abortion remains legal. Connecticut is one of 16 states with laws in place that protect the right to an abortion up until the fetus can live independently outside the womb, The 19th reports.

The General Assembly in April passed a sweeping bill strengthening the state’s existing abortion laws.

Here’s what you need to know about the “safe harbor” law:

1. State lawmakers approved the first significant changes to Connecticut’s abortion laws in three decades this spring

The General Assembly chose to tackle abortion rights as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed a Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Legislators correctly anticipated that the court’s conservative majority could use it to revise or overturn Roe v. Wade.

Prior to this year, Connecticut had 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.

2. The new law clarifies in statute who can perform abortions in the first trimester

Lawmakers codified an opinion by the attorney general that advanced-practice clinicians such A.P.R.N.s and physician assistants can 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.

3. The new law strengthens legal protections for abortion seekers from other states, as well as providers

Lawmakers have agreed 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.

This 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.

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

4. Advocates say the changes will decrease wait times for patients seeking an abortion in Connecticut

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.

5. The new ‘safe harbor’ law will go into effect July 1

The General Assembly approved the measure this spring on a vote that blurred party lines in the House and Senate, with several Republicans voting in favor and more than a dozen Democrats opposed.

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