'Devastated' Planned Parenthood and 'overjoyed' Right to Life plan for post-Roe future
Dr. Nancy Stanwood, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, recalled that in the time since Texas enacted a law banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a patient from Texas who was pregnant from a rape and had a connection in Connecticut traveled to a health center here.
She and others from Planned Parenthood expect that as other states pass abortion bans, which Friday's U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade allows, people will continue to travel to Connecticut to get abortions.
"The ability to travel thousands of miles is not something that is available to all people," said Amanda Skinner, president and CEO of PPSNE. She added, "It is devastating to think that where somebody lives determines whether or not they have access to care and the ability to determine their own lives."
She said while it's hard to anticipate the speed and scope of the increased demand, Planned Parenthood is ready. But since the protections from Roe v. Wade are codified in Connecticut state law, anti-abortion activists and groups are also ready to continue their fight.
Connecticut Right to Life and the Family Institute of Connecticut participated in a "victory rally" at the state Capitol on Friday afternoon.
"This is the victory the pro-life movement has worked for these past 49 years," the organization said in a statement. "We should celebrate it. And prepare ourselves for the battles that still lie ahead here in Connecticut."
The state codified abortion rights in 1990, and just last month, Gov. Ned Lamont signed a law providing protections for people receiving and providing abortions. The law, which goes into effect July 1, also expands what medical providers can provide abortions.
Stanwood said Planned Parenthood of Southern New England is preparing to have training this summer for advanced practice clinicians within the organization, "so that we will be prepared and ready to have the workforce that patients need."
She said she wants patients in Connecticut and Rhode Island "to really know that we are here, our doors are open, (and) we trust you to chart your own life and make your own health care decisions."
Claudine Constant, public policy and advocacy director of the ACLU of Connecticut, joined the virtual news conference with Planned Parenthood, and she said Connecticut "still has much more work to do to protect and expand abortion access and reproductive freedom here."
Asked to expand on that, Constant said she wants to see legislators "continue to be on the front lines in terms of increasing support and funding for the Black maternal health crisis." She said Black maternal death rates are "staggering" and there needs to be more investment on the front end, such as with access to quality housing and good-paying jobs, and training doctors to believe Black women when they say they're experiencing pain.
Liz Gustafson, state director of Pro-Choice Connecticut, said her organization will keep fighting alongside its partners until every person — no matter where they live or how much money they make — has the freedom to make their own decisions about their lives and futures.
"People across the U.S. will still need abortion care, but the Supreme Court's decision will further embolden anti-abortion politicians to push for the nationwide ban on abortion they have wanted all along," Gustafson said.
One of the people who would like to see that nationwide ban on abortion, and to see recognition of personhood of the unborn, is Bill O'Brien, vice president of Connecticut Right to Life.
"We're overjoyed," he said about the Supreme Court decision. "It's been a long time. I've personally been involved for about 48 years, so it's been a lifetime trying to get this thing overturned."
But he said in Connecticut, it's just the beginning.
"This court decision certainly makes it an issue in this campaign, so that's the first thing," O'Brien said. "In past years, I think they were able to duck the issue, because they felt they couldn't do something one way or another."
On the state level, he said, "there's certainly a number in the legislature who are pro-life, and we hope to put more there this year," and he wants the legislature to look at a parental notification bill. On the federal level, he said it's important who Connecticut has in Congress because Democrats want to enact a law legalizing abortion nationwide.
Some organizations, such as the Diocese of Norwich and Care Net — an anti-abortion evangelical Christian network of crisis pregnancy centers, with a location in New London — have turned their focus toward sharing resources for pregnant women. Care Net President and CEO Roland Warren said while Friday was "a monumental day in our efforts to protect the unborn," "changed laws don't equal changed hearts, and the Supreme Court can't outlaw unplanned, unexpected, and unexpectedly complicated pregnancies."
The Connecticut Pregnancy Care Coalition, Connecticut Catholic Conference and Family Institute of Connecticut last week issued a joint statement calling on Connecticut elected and law enforcement officials to speak out against violence and vandalism happening elsewhere in the country against churches and pregnancy care centers.
According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March, 61% of U.S. adults think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
A few supporters of abortion rights gathered outside Ledyard Town Hall early Friday evening. Dorothy Folkes said we're going backwards and questioned, "What next? What are you coming after next?"
She had driven by the demonstrators and decided to join them, standing next to fellow Ledyard resident Nicole Cruz-Glacken to hold a sign reading, "Where do our reps stand? Protect women's rights."
"If we don't know, if there's a certain silence, that leaves a lot of room for speculation," Cruz-Glacken said. She also said it's not pro-life to take a way a woman's right to choose, when women have already had to fight for rights like voting and owning a home.
Nina Cotugno-Diaz spoke highly of her past experience working as a clinic assistant at Planned Parenthood, and how it made her realize how many girls and women are abused by family members.
Abortion is "an option that should never be debated," she said. "We're not objects. We're not something that should be voted on, and it's sad we even have to be out here today."