At least 20 Connecticut lawmakers reaffirmed Connecticut’s commitment to reproductive rights and continued access to health services for women Monday at a Legislative Office Building press conference.
Seven female lawmakers said they’ve introduced five bills that will help support women’s rights and access to healthcare that may disappear under a Trump administration. The press conference comes one day after 10,000 gathered in Hartford at the state Capitol to fight for women’s rights and express their emotions about what President Donald Trump’s administration might mean for women and their families.
One bill would preserve a woman’s constitutional rights to pregnancy-related healthcare. Another would preserve provisions of the Affordable Care Act requiring no cost-sharing for women’s preventative services. Yet another bill would preserve requirements that nursing mothers be provided with a breast pump, and improve protections for nursing mothers in the workplace. Another bill would improve current workplace protections for pregnant women. The last would ensure that individuals are able to seek time-sensitive healthcare related to pregnancy and contraception without delay.
Meanwhile, there were also four bills introduced by male Republican lawmakers that would require parental notification of minors seeking an abortion. Connecticut does not have parental notification requirements, but the state does require that before obtaining an abortion, a minor must receive counseling that includes discussion of the possibility of consulting her parents. Another bill introduced by a Republican lawmaker would require a woman to get an ultrasound before having an abortion.
A group of pro-life advocates who had gathered in the hall after the press conference wondered why lawmakers and pro-choice advocates are so afraid of having a debate on the subject.
“We will not allow any anti-choice, any anti-women bills to be voted on and passed in the state Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said Monday to a round of applause.
Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said supporting women’s reproductive health has a long history of bipartisan support in Connecticut, which is why the issue doesn’t come up every year.
The last time Connecticut lawmakers debated reproductive health on the floor of the House or the Senate was 2007 when it required Catholic hospitals to contract with third-party providers in order to provide Plan B contraception to rape victims.
Connecticut is a state that has enacted a declaration in 1990 affirmatively protecting a woman’s right to choose an abortion in, so even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, abortion would still be legal in Connecticut.
Those who oppose abortion, like Peter Wolfgang of the Connecticut Family Institute, said they’re not afraid of a debate the topic because they believe a majority of Connecticut will agree with them that parental notification before a teenager has an abortion is reasonable.
“In Connecticut you need your parent’s permission if you want to get an aspirin at school,” Wolfgang said. “But not if you need an abortion.”
He said even people who don’t agree with them on the underlying issue of abortion, “largely agree that an abortion is life-altering, major surgery in a young girl’s life and some parent or appropriate adult ought to be part of that discussion.”
Wolfgang said he would consider it a victory if they were able to get a committee to raise one of the parental notification bills and have a debate. He said they’ve never had a formal public hearing on a parental notification bill in the state of Connecticut.
Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, said Monday that minor children need consent for most health procedures and his legislation is only asking for notification. He said he thinks it’s a reasonable request and the minor children “should be able to speak with their parents” about such a major decision.
Newly-elected state Rep. Liz Lenehan, D-Cheshire, said she’s ready for the debate because she’s confident Connecticut will prove yet again that “not just the women of Connecticut, but that the people of Connecticut are behind us.”
Flexer said the issue of parental notification and requiring ultrasounds is driving Connecticut backward.
“We already have laws governing counseling for minors,” Flexer said.
Connecticut law requires all women receiving abortion care at an outpatient clinic to meet with a counselor and sign a consent form before an abortion.
Flexer said what a handful of male Republican lawmakers are proposing is not the direction Connecticut is going in terms of “protecting women’s healthcare.”
However, she insisted the press conference Monday was more of a response to the debate going on in Washington and an effort to differentiate Connecticut as a leader on women’s rights than it was on a handful of bills introduced by Republicans.