Lawmakers consider paying for out-of-state abortion patients

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, 18 states have either banned or severely limited abortion access. That means some patients now have to travel hundreds of miles for the procedure.

John Craven

Feb 28, 2023, 10:22 PM

Updated 447 days ago

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Tuesday’s snow didn't stop a contentious hearing about abortion – and whether Connecticut should pay for out-of-state patients’ travel and medical costs. Even some supporters raised concerns about cost and whether a new “Safe Harbor Fund” is really needed here.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, 18 states have either banned or severely limited abortion access. That means some patients now have to travel hundreds of miles for the procedure.
A new bill would pay for patients from “states with limited access to abortion care” to travel to Connecticut. Patients would qualify if they make less than $35,741 per year – or they're enrolled in Medicaid or SNAP food benefits.
“Financial and geographic barriers should not prohibit people from accessing the essential health care that they need,” said Pro-Choice Connecticut executive director Liz Gustafson. “Connecticut providers continue to show up for patients, regardless of who they are, where they are from, or how much money they make. And it's our responsibility to show up for them.”
Gov. Ned Lamont's budget includes $2 million for a Safe Harbor Fund, but even supporters are worried about the cost. In written testimony, the Connecticut Department of Social Services said it “has concerns over the potential scope of the proposal.” In particular, DSS said the bill doesn’t specify which “related services” are covered and what qualifies as “limited access to abortion.”
Before a legislative committee Tuesday, new DSS Commissioner Andrea Barton-Reeves also questioned whether the state would have to cover hospital costs if patients have complications.
“If you have several people that need that care, we know that hospitalization can be quite expensive, so that's why the $2 million in care may not necessarily cover everything, which is why we needed some more clarification,” Barton-Reeves said.
Barton-Reeves said patients would probably have pay for travel expenses out of pocket, then get reimbursed. But the bill doesn't say how much money each patient could collect, or how their income would be verified.
More than 150 people submitted written testimony opposing the fund, most objecting to using taxpayer funds to pay for a procedure they find morally objectionable.
“Funding this bill with $2 million worth of taxpayer dollars, in my opinion, is absolutely absurd,” said Rashad Gibson, founder of the group United America.
Other opponents called the fund taxpayer-funded “abortion tourism.”
“This is a misuse of tax money,” Marcella Kurowski of Wallingford told the legislature’s Human Services committee. “It is possible that tax relief could benefit Connecticut's economy.”
Even some Democrats questioned if a Safe Harbor Fund is even necessary in Connecticut. Right now, the closest likely eligible state is West Virginia.
“I have been back and forth on this piece of legislation,” said state Rep. Michelle Cook (D-Torrington).
Abortion providers have said some patients have already traveled to Connecticut, but it’s unclear how many people would take advantage of the assistance. Private groups have also formed the REACH Fund to help those seeking reproductive care from other states.


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