A 10-year-old girl was raped and impregnated, but because her home state of Ohio has newly-minted draconian abortion laws, she had to travel to Indiana to terminate the pregnancy.
A 10-year-old girl is in no way ready for pregnancy – neither emotionally nor physically – yet her story was mocked and dismissed by conservative lawmakers and pundits. When a rape suspect was charged, that branch of the chattering class went quiet. A few (among them Rep. Jim Jordan, who has a history of ignoring sexual assault) deleted their earlier, scoffing social media posts, but they should know that the Internet is forever.
Meanwhile, Indiana’s attorney general, Todd Rokita, suggested he might file criminal charges against the doctor who performed the (legal) abortion. The doctor has filed notice that she plans to sue the AG for defamation. Rokita could also face an ethics investigation.
Contrast that to what’s happening in the Nutmeg State, where more than 30 years ago – when most people still considered Roe v. Wade secure – state legislators codified abortion access into state law. Right after a draft option of the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade was leaked, Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law Public Act 22-19, which protects medical providers, as well as people who get abortion care in the state, and may be traveling from states where legislators have banned the procedure or made it difficult to obtain. The law also expanded the types of practitioners who can provide “abortion-related care,” according to the governor’s office.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court rolling back nearly a half-century of protection for people who seek abortions, Connecticut residents might feel survivor’s guilt.
So what can we do? We can remember that a lot of people in this new, nearly-unrecognizable U.S. aren’t so fortunate. A new Stamford-based non-profit is planning a different approach to making the medical procedure more accessible to people who might not have the money for an abortion.
The REACH (Reproductive Equity, Access, and CHoice) Fund of Connecticut was founded last year by a group of advocates and activists who looked at the Court’s ultra-conservatives, and began to prepare for the worst. The court’s most recent addition was the tipping point.
“In October ’20, when they put Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court, I freaked out,” said Jessica Puk, REACH co-founder.
This is personal. In 2016, Puk (pronounced “puck”) had a second-trimester abortion for a “very wanted pregnancy,” she said. She sat in a surgery ward in Stamford, watched Donald Trump win the presidency, and thought, “It’s a good thing I’m having my abortion today.”
“I knew this was not going to be good,” she said.
Puk eventually carried a pregnancy to full term, and today her family delights in a 4½-year old boy. But a friend who lives in Missouri, who also needed an abortion to end a wanted pregnancy, had to first sign a paper that acknowledged she’d heard the heartbeat, and elected to move forward with the procedure.
The inhumanity of inflicting that on a grieving family could drop you to your knees, but such is our time in Gilead.
Puk told her story at a recent pro-choice rally on the green in the Higganum section of Haddam. Other speakers included state representatives Christian Palm (D-Chester), Jillian Gilchrest (D-West Hartford), and Stephanie Thomas (D-Norwalk), who is also a Democratic candidate for Connecticut’s Secretary of the State. The crowd of about 120 included two little boys, one of whom wore a T-shirt with the likeness of former Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in ’20, and another whose T-shirt said, “Future Pro-Choice Voter.” One man held a flag that looked suspiciously like the “Don’t Tread On Me” Gadsden flag favored by the Tea Party, but said, instead, “Don’t Trad On Me,” and “Pro-Choice.” The man inked in an “E.”
Puk said REACH organizers are busy raising $50,000 to get started. The group plans to award block grants to Connecticut clinics for patients who cannot afford an abortion.
Funding clinics directly for the abortions they provide will allow REACH to save money normally spent on training hotline operators, and it will remove one step for the person seeking an abortion. Direct funding will also keep patients’ records with medical clinics, and not the non-profit. As of this writing, the group has raised a little more than 60% of their goal as more abortion patients stream into the safe harbor that is Connecticut.
Remember: There is no such thing as “settled law” when it comes to women’s bodies. For now, we’re covered, so long as Connecticut’s elected officials say we are. For now, we can acknowledge that we’re lucky to live in a state where abortion is considered health care, where women are given agency over their futures, and where we can donate to organizations such as REACH. Let’s all donate in the name of Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.