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With Lamont’s signature, CT enacts four reproductive rights bills

The votes were bipartisan, but only one Republican lawmaker, Rep. Tracy Marra (second from right), attended Wednesday's ceremonial bill signings.
Mark Pazniokas
Connecticut Mirror
The votes were bipartisan, but only one Republican lawmaker, Rep. Tracy Marra (second from right), attended Wednesday's ceremonial bill signings.

Bills protecting reproductive rights in Connecticut drew overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the General Assembly, but the ceremonial signings of those measures Wednesday still managed to reflect the national partisan divide on abortion without a single mention of party affiliation.

Only one Republican, Rep. Tracy Marra of Darien, joined the throng of lawmakers surrounding Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, as he signed copies of four bills that expand access to contraceptives, protect abortion providers against legal action from other states, and safeguard online health data.

Republican legislatures and governors have enacted laws banning or severely curtailing abortion in 18 states, which Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, likened Wednesday to “a war on women.” Without mentioning they are Republicans, Lamont denounced the social agenda of the congressional Freedom Caucus.

“All they want to do is strip away our rights and our freedoms. Those are civil rights, those are reproductive rights, those are gay rights,” Lamont said.

Gretchen Raffa, vice president of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said “anti-abortion politicians and judges” are not satisfied with last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and ending nearly a half century of a constitutional right to abortion.

“They are continuing their fight to try to pass a nationwide abortion ban. They are coming for our birth control. Yes, they are coming for our birth control,” Raffa said. “And they are aggressively and viciously attacking trans health care with 19 states banning or severely restricting gender affirming care for young people. They’re coming for sex education, they are coming for anything they can to control our bodies and our lives.”

Thirty years ago, Connecticut codified in state law the protections of Roe v. Wade.

“We’re here today to say abortion is safe, legal and protected here in Connecticut. And even as we’ve watched those mounting attacks outside of our state, we have worked to protect the rights of women and their health care providers,” Lt. Gov Susan Bysiewicz said.

Marra, a first-term Republican, said she attended the bill signing knowing that the rhetoric was likely to take a partisan edge.

She is a pharmacist who voted for all four bills, including one that allows pharmacists to prescribe emergency or hormonal contraception. Another requires public higher-education institutions to provide reproductive health care services to students who live on residential campuses.

Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Windham, whose district is home to the University of Connecticut and Eastern Connecticut State University, said college students sought the latter bill after Roe was overturned, refusing to simply protest.

“They instead said what can we do to make this better?” Flexer said. “What can we do to make sure that we have better access to health care here at UConn? What can we do to make sure college students across our state have their access to health care?”

The pharmacy bill passed unanimously in the Senate and 125-21 in the House. The higher education bill passed 34-2 in the Senate and 114-34 in the House.

A privacy bill that included protections for online searches and records pertaining to a consumer’s health condition or diagnosis, including gender-affirming and reproductive or sexual health data, passed unanimously.

The fourth bill, House Bill 6820, protects the licenses of health providers who offer abortion and other services to residents of states where they are prohibited. It passed by votes of 35-1 in the Senate and 128-19 in the House.

Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield, the co-chair of the Public Health Committee, said the protection applies to providers who offer gender-affirming care.

Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, co-chair of the Reproductive Rights Caucus of the General Assembly, emphasized the broad support.

“You can see from the huge, bipartisan, bicameral coalition behind us that the Reproductive Rights Caucus is not only accomplishing great things across the board for people across the state, but will continue to do so in the future,” Blumenthal said.

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