Connecticut leaders promise 'firewall' if Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade
Connecticut leaders are vowing to be a “firewall” if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, but abortion opponents see a political opportunity – and perhaps a legal one.
Reaction was swift after Politico published a leaked draft opinion, indicating justices will overturn the landmark abortion ruling.
"This is a national abortion access crisis,” said Gretchen Raffa, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England’s vice president of public policy.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong called the draft ruling an “outrage” and said the state will fight any attempt to pass a national abortion ban in Congress.
Anti-abortion groups see things very differently.
"It's a huge victory for life in America,” said Peter Wolfgang, president of the Family Institute of Connecticut.
The Hartford Diocese of the Catholic Church called the draft opinion a “moral victory for all who believe the truth that life begins at conception and is to be protected by law.”
No matter what the Supreme Court does, abortion will remain legal here. Connecticut was the first state to codify abortion rights into state law in 1990.
Just last week, Connecticut lawmakers expanded the law. Soon, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and even midwives will be allowed to perform the procedure.
Connecticut also passed a "shield law" protecting patients and providers against out-of-state legal actions. Judges will be banned from assisting civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions for reproductive procedures that are legal in Connecticut. The governor’s ability to extradite someone will be limited, and patients’ medical records will be off-limits in most cases.
"We are ready and we will fight against any attack on fundamental freedoms in our state,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said at an afternoon news conference.
Gov. Ned Lamont said he will sign the bill as soon as it hits his desk.
“I am very appreciative to the majority of lawmakers in Connecticut who had the foresight to draft this legislation at a time when the right to a safe and legal abortion in America is in jeopardy,” he said in a statement.
Lamont and 16 other Democratic governors, including Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York, sent a letter urging Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protectiob Act, which would codify abortion access into national law. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill in September, but Senate passage would require 60 votes or ending the filibuster. Both appear unlikely at this point.
But just how safe are reproductive rights in Connecticut?
This year, lawmakers abandoned a bill to guarantee abortion access in the state constitution. The amendment would have banned any law to “deny or infringe the right of personal reproductive autonomy and freedom…unless such law is justified by a compelling state interest.“ Critics said the wording was too vague, and could strike down any restrictions on abortion. Right now, Connecticut generally bans third-trimester abortions.
Even top Democrats are divided about amending the state constitution.
"I'm just not sure what the question would say,” said state House Speaker Matt Ritter. “What I go back to intellectually is -- you have to ask a question. It has to be 'shall' with a question mark and then parenthesis and then quotation mark.”
Democrats are also divided along racial lines. More than a dozen Black and Hispanic Democrats voted "no" on the new abortion law.
During the debate, state Rep. Treneé McGee (D-West Haven) accused providers of targeting Black neighborhoods, where abortion rates are much higher than among whites.
"They were taught about abortion as a birth control method,” she said. “They were taught that, at any point in time, when they were 13 or 12 or 15, they can go to a Planned Parenthood and receive an abortion without their parents knowing."
Abortion opponents like FIC’s Peter Wolfgang see an opportunity.
"The split between the Black community and white progressives was something that was always out there,” he said. “What's new, what's different, is that it was never discussed openly on the floor of the House and the Senate."
This isn't just political. If Roe is overturned, Wolfgang said his group might challenge Connecticut's law in court.