Advocates and Democratic state officials gathered under the state Capitol’s rotunda Monday to mark the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and to announce their commitment to redoubling efforts to broaden access to abortion care in the absence of the landmark legal decision.
The event was the first commemoration of the 1973 court decision, which had previously made abortion legal nationwide, since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling last year. Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, a West Hartford Democrat who co-chairs the Reproductive Rights Caucus, said it was an emotional anniversary.
“There’s a lot of emotion. There’s sadness, there’s disappointment, but I think most of all, there’s anger,” Gilchrest said. “There’s anger that an extremist minority has been able to put individual’s lives, in particular women, in jeopardy.”
Last year, Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation meant to shield patients and doctors who elect to conduct the procedure in Connecticut from legal action by states where abortion has been made illegal. The law also added certified APRNs and physician assistants to the providers allowed to perform aspiration abortions, the most common type of in-clinic abortion.
Gretchen Raffa, vice president for public policy, advocacy and organizing for Planned Parenthood, said the safe harbor law had contributed to an increase in the number of patients traveling to Connecticut and Rhode Island to receive an abortion from states that had moved to restrict access. That number jumped from 31 during a period between 2020 and 2021 to 52 between 2021 and 2022.
This year, Gov. Ned Lamont said he planned to propose legislation this session to make it easier for people to access reproductive care by allowing a pharmacist to prescribe certain types of contraception that had previously required a doctor’s prescription. Lamont encouraged supporters to persevere despite the setback.
“Look, I heard the anguish from Jillian and others when that Dobbs decision came down, the disappointment, the anger. You know what you do? Get back up and you fight back,” Lamont said. “That’s what we do in America.”
Advocates and lawmakers opposed to abortion have also been motivated by the reversal of the longstanding decision. Republican legislators have proposed five bills so far this session that would require parents to be notified before a minor can receive an abortion and in some cases other medical procedures.
Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, tens of thousands of activists opposed to abortion gathered on the National Mall of a March for Life over the weekend. State Rep. Treneé McGee, a Democrat from West Haven, was among those to address the crowd.
“You’ve mocked impoverished communities all while putting clinics in them,” McGee said. “You’ve told me I can’t be Black and pro-life because Black women need abortion more than anyone.”
At least three Republican lawmakers in Connecticut have introduced parental notification bills, but House Speaker Matt Ritter said none of them would be raised for a public hearing or get a vote in the House.