Gov. Ned Lamont signs a bill protecting abortion rights in Connecticut Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut took steps to preserve access to legal abortion services Tuesday as Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law a bill shielding patients as well as doctors providing the procedure from legal action by states where abortion may soon be illegal.

Lamont signed the bill flanked by legislators and reproductive rights advocates during a ceremonial event outside the state Capitol building Tuesday morning. The bill, passed by the legislature late last month, comes as the U.S. Supreme Court appears certain to overturn Roe vs Wade, the decision that has made abortion legal nationwide since 1973. The change would leave states free to enact policies banning abortion. 

The legislation seeks to prevent states with policies prohibiting abortions from extraditing patients who chose to have the procedure in Connecticut or doctors who provide the procedure here.

Lamont called a widely-reported draft opinion indicating the court’s willingness to dismantle the landmark decision “shocking.”

“You try and come after our doctors, you try and come after women who come into this state or women in this state — not going to happen here,” Lamont said. “We’re going to protect you. No subpoenas, no going after you.”

Although the bill was celebrated at Tuesday’s event, more than one speaker said it came at a time of anxiety and uncertainty for women across the nation.

“This is a dark day,” Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, said. “This is a dark time for our country and I’m glad that Connecticut can be a light. Access to abortion protects our bodily autonomy. Access to abortion respects our decision to choose whether or when to get pregnant.”

Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

The bill passed through the legislature largely on Democratic votes but it was not a strictly partisan affair. Fourteen House Democrats voted in opposition and seven Republicans voted in support. In the Senate, three Democratic Senators voted against it and five Republican Senators supported it. One of those Republicans, Sen. Heather Somers of Groton, was among the attendees at Tuesday’s bill-signing event.

Still, the issue of preserving abortion rights has energized state Democrats and factored heavily into the party’s nominating convention over the weekend. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote this week on a bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, to codify Roe vs Wade. It is not expected to clear the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold.

At Tuesday’s event, Blumenthal’s son, Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, said Connecticut’s recently-passed law was the strongest of its kind in the nation. Blumenthal, who along with Gilchrest chairs the state legislature’s Reproductive Rights Caucus, said the law would shield Connecticut residents from “interstate attack.” He pointed in particular to restrictive abortion policies already passed in Texas.

“This law says to people across the country essentially, Texas, don’t mess with Connecticut,” Blumenthal said.

The governor set his sights a little more locally. Without naming Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, Lamont called on him to outline his positions on abortion rights.

“Any candidate for governor has gotta speak up and let us know where you stand,” Lamont said. “The Supreme Court, that leak, is really jeopardizing a lot of fundamental rights and right now what have I heard from the Republican candidate for governor? Crickets.”

In the past, Stefanowski has said he did not expect the court’s action to have much impact in the state.

“The leaked Supreme Court opinion doesn’t change anything here in Connecticut,” Stefanowski said in an email. “In Connecticut, a woman’s right to choose is fully protected under state law.”