Connecticut state lawmakers advanced legislation Tuesday evening that abortion rights advocates say is needed to protect in-state medical providers from legal action, as well as patients who travel to Connecticut to terminate a pregnancy and those who help them. It comes amid new abortion restrictions being enacted in a growing number of conservative states.
The bill cleared the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 87-60. It now awaits action in the Senate.
Although Connecticut codified the right to abortion in 1990, proponents said steps need to be taken now to prepare for the U.S. Supreme Court possibly overturning or weakening Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a nationwide right to abortion.
However, the socially conservative Family Institute of Connecticut has criticized the legislation, arguing it will create a “safe harbor” for “abortion providers who violate abortion laws in other states.”
The bill is considered by some advocates to be one of the most consequential abortion-related proposals to come up for a vote in the General Assembly since 1990. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday he will sign the legislation in the law if clears the full Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
“Despite our laws protecting the right to choose, we are not immune,” said Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, vice chairperson of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee.
Twenty-six states are certain or likely to quickly ban or severely restrict abortion if Roe is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that supports abortion rights.
“I think one important point about the bill that we’re talking about today is that it is purely defensive,” Blumenthal said. “The only way that it comes into effect is if another state tries to impose their law on us.”
Texas enacted a law in 2021 that bans abortions for women as early as six weeks pregnant and authorizes lawsuits against clinics, doctors and others who perform or facilitate a banned abortion.
The responsibility for enforcing the law was given to private citizens who are entitled to collect what critics call a “bounty” of $10,000 if they bring a successful lawsuit against a provider or anyone who helps a patient obtain an abortion. The Texas Supreme Court has upheld the law.
Among other things, Connecticut’s bill would prevent state and local agencies from cooperating in investigations and prosecutions of abortion providers in the state, modify the state’s extradition statutes and prevent an out-of-state patient’s medical records from being disclosed.
The bill would also allow an advanced practice registered nurse, nurse-midwife or physician assistant to perform the most common type of in-clinic abortion, known as an aspiration abortion. The procedure is currently limited to physicians.
House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, who voted against the bill, questioned whether the legislation ultimately provides enough protections for women who might receive an abortion from those health care providers. He said the state Department of Public Health should have first reviewed their training practices, as well as the health and safety benefits of allowing them to provide aspiration abortions.
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