At a press conference commemorating the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, state officials and women’s rights activists vowed to fight any attempts to threaten women’s reproductive rights.
The anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion comes days after the Obama administration mandated that almost all employers provide contraceptives for free under health insurance plans. That decision has been applauded by reproductive rights groups but pro-life advocates and some employers with religious affiliations have vowed to fight it.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said that Connecticut has leaders who will prevent lawmakers from chipping away at reproductive rights, but she worries about what may happen in Washington D.C.
“We know that President Obama is with us but you never know what’s going to happen,” she said.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she was surprised to see access to contraceptives again being challenged.
“The ground has shifted once again and we’re not just fighting for the rights of women to choose abortion, we are now fighting for the right of women to have access to contraception. I never thought I’d see that in my lifetime again. I thought that fight was long over,” she said.
While the federal decision has returned focus to contraceptives access, Gretchen Raffa of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England said after almost 40 years, some still want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
“Today this landmark victory for women’s health and rights is being threatened at every level,” she said.
Judy Tabar, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, said her organization serves 63,000 patients in Connecticut. Ninety percent of those patients come seeking preventative care, she said.
However, she said it’s important to uphold the decision that allows women the right to a safe abortion.
“Abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures for women in the United States. Despite this fact, however, lawmakers are lining up to roll back the one law that protects access to safe and legal abortion,” she said.
Jamie Beers, administrator of the Hartford Gyn Center, said before abortion was legal many women seeking the procedure lost their lives. During follow-up visits, Beers said the center asks women who have had an abortion to take an anonymous survey about their experience. The surveys ask what patients would have done if abortions were illegal, she said.
“Some of the most moving answers are: ‘I would be stuck in a domestic violence relationship.’ ‘I would go to New York or another state.’ ‘I would be dead.’ ‘I would have found a doctor somewhere to take it out, no matter what I had to pay,’” she said.
The anniversary was also a busy day for people on the other side of the issue. Anti-abortion advocates had planned a March for Life rally in Bridgeport on Jan. 21 but the event was postponed until Jan. 28 due to snow. Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, is scheduled to give the keynote address after the march.
On Monday, Wolfgang said he attended a March for Life rally in Washington D.C., which he said had the largest turnout of any he’s been to. Among the hundreds of thousands he estimated were there, about 85 people from the Hartford area also traveled to the Capitol for the march, he said. Wolfgang said the contraceptives mandate has pro-lifers more motivated than ever.
“The mandate from the Obama administration really energized the people in the crowd today,” he said. “We’re really committed to overturning Roe v. Wade.”
Wolfgang said he felt that popular opinion was even changing in Connecticut. Over the last year he said people have been willing to have public discussions in Hartford like a hearing in June over requiring parental notification before teens can get an abortion.
“The tide is turning. It’s not going to happen overnight but sooner or later we’re going to win this thing in Connecticut,” he said.
Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference Director Michael Culhane said the Archdiocese of Hartford was unhappy with the contraceptives mandate.
“These rules coming into effect clearly fly in the face of religious liberty and religious protection,” he said.