Connecticut to link abortion-seekers with free legal advice
Connecticut is taking another step to protect abortion access. The state will connect patients and providers with free legal advice under a new program announced Tuesday.
Although abortion is legal in Connecticut, more than two dozen states banned or severely restricted the procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Some states made it illegal to obtain an abortion elsewhere, creating legal concerns for providers here.
“We've seen patients traveling from states that have banned abortion across the South and the Midwest, including from as far as 1,500 miles away,” said Zari Watkins, the chief operating officer for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.
At a news conference, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced the state is joining a free legal hotline already established in New York. The number is 212-899-5567.
“Some of the biggest law firms in the world are a part of this hotline,” said Tong. "You can call if you need to know your rights, if you need access to legal representation, if you're unsure about whether you're at risk."
It's not the only step Connecticut is taking. Under the nation’s first "shield law," courts can't assist out-of-state civil lawsuits or serve summonses in criminal cases related to abortion. Patients’ medical records are also sealed.
"If individuals come to the state of Connecticut to seek an abortion, we will protect those who maybe give them a house to stay in, or the provider who provides the abortion,” said state Rep. Jillian Gilchrest (D-West Hartford), one of the law’s authors.
But Gilchrest and other lawmakers want to go even further. They want to allocate more money for security at clinics. They’re also looking at laws ensuring that abortion medication is available through telehealth, limits on disclosing someone's pregnancy status, and a ban on insurers raising malpractice premiums on abortion providers.
Tong said he is not aware of any other states targeting abortion providers in Connecticut.
Republican leaders called the move a publicity stunt in an election year.
“Sadly, state Democrats continue to weaponize the topic of women's reproductive health by stepping in front of television cameras to double down on their false narrative that elected Republicans and candidates here are threatening a health care, choice that's enshrined in Connecticut law,” Connecticut House Minority Leader Vin Candelora (R-North Branford) said in a statement. “They're doing it because they've failed miserably on the affordability and public safety concerns that we're hearing about as we knock on doors in our communities.”
Abortion opponents, who greeted Vice President Kamala Harris at Central Connecticut State University last Wednesday, are also promising a fight.
"I'm pro-life, and this is, to me, the most serious issue in our country,” protester Louise Cody of New Britain told News 12 outside the event.
Tong is also hiring a new special counsel for reproductive rights to challenge abortion bans across the country, as well as any national abortion restrictions.