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    Sunday, December 04, 2022

    Abortion-related bill passes in Connecticut House

    Hartford — The state House of Representatives passed a bill strengthening abortion rights in Connecticut after debating into the night on Tuesday.

    The bill was passed 87-60, with four people absent or not voting. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

    About 4 p.m. Tuesday, Democratic legislators announced during a news conference that they would be combining two separate abortion rights-related bills. One would protect out-of-state women from prosecution for getting an abortion in Connecticut, as well as Connecticut medical providers from legal action taken against them from another state. The other would expand abortion care in Connecticut by allowing advanced-practice clinicians — such as advanced-practice registered nurses, or APRNs, and nurse-midwives — to perform aspiration, or suction, abortion in addition to medication abortion. Both bills coalesced under House Bill 5414.

    State Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, was one of several Democrats who voted against the bill. Several Republicans voted in favor of the bill, as well.

    The House first had to vote on an amendment that replaced the language of the original bill to combine the two bills. Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, took issue with combining the two pieces of legislation, one of which came out of the public health committee and the other from the judiciary committee.

    “The amendment ... takes a public health bill and inserts it into this bill. My objection, my no vote, is basically based upon the procedure,” Fishbein said, adding that he and others didn’t know the bill as amended was going to be discussed on Tuesday.

    The amendment passed along party lines.

    With the U.S. Supreme Court considering a case that could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and with the rise of restrictive abortion laws in other states, Connecticut’s legislature is trying to ensure women can get an abortion in Connecticut despite these factors.

    “When you look at the things that are going on across this country and you look at what’s unfortunately probably headed down the pike in June, Connecticut has always been a place where we respect reproductive rights,” House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said during a news conference Tuesday morning. “This enhances those rights.”

    Democratic legislators repeatedly have referred to a Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. It also includes what critics say is a “bounty hunter” aspect, allowing Texas residents to sue health care workers and clinics for violating the law, as well as people who transport a woman to get an abortion.

    The bill debated Tuesday would take measures to prevent other states from imposing their laws on care that’s legal in Connecticut, in part by preventing the disclosure of medical records related to reproductive health care and in effect impeding the legal process in other states, Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, said.

    Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, said the state is expecting an uptick in out-of-state women coming to Connecticut to seek abortions, given the climate on the issue around the country and the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.

    “It is already about a two-week or longer wait to get an aspiration abortion ... What we are anticipating will happen should Roe v. Wade get overturned, there are likely about 23 states that would immediately ban abortion,” Gilchrest said.

    Rep. Aimee Berger-Girvalo, D-Ridgefield, supported the bill and spoke of her experience getting an abortion when she was 18 years old, saying she had to cross “a barrier of protesters yelling at me and go through a procedure in a room full of strangers.”

    “Across this country the choice to have an abortion is being taken away at an alarming rate," she went on to say, "and Connecticut has stood strong in its position to protect and expand reproductive freedom.”

    Republicans largely have avoided a straightforward abortion and choice debate through the committee processes for this bill, instead focusing on the constitutional implications of interfering with other states’ laws.

    “For us it’s less about a pro-choice position and more about states’ rights and federal law really overshadowing this issue,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said during a news conference Tuesday. “They’ve written up a bill that has broad, sweeping impacts on states’ rights. We need to look at those distinctions and get this bill right, rather than running to the podium and being the first person to say, ‘I support women’s rights.’ It’s not about women’s rights, it’s about our Constitution.”

    s.spinella@theday.com

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