State officials described Connecticut as pushing against a tide of new abortion restrictions being enacted across the country during a Wednesday bill-signing ceremony marking the adoption of a series of laws protecting access to reproductive health care.
Gov. Ned Lamont signed four bills during the symbolic event held in the crowded Old Appropriations Room of the state Capitol building. He said the new policies respected women’s right to make choices for themselves and their families.
“I think that makes a difference for the state and I hope we send a signal loud and clear and I hope Washington picks up this message and forwards what we’ve got to do so we don’t have to keep playing with rear guard action,” Lamont said.
The proposals include new legal protections for health care providers who perform services banned by other states, a new policy allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control, safeguards protecting medical data, and health care access requirements for state colleges and universities.
Wednesday’s ceremony was attended by reproductive rights advocates, around a dozen legislative Democrats, and one Republican lawmaker, Rep. Tracy Marra, a pharmacist from Darien who advocated for the birth control legislation on the House floor.
More than one speaker remarked on how Connecticut’s actions have set it apart from other states which have quickly moved to restrict abortion access in the year since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down long standing protections under Roe v. Wade.
“Connecticut is a proven leader,” said Gretchen Raffa, vice president of public policy, advocacy, and organizing at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “Decades of long and hard-fought battles to get to the point we are at today have been won with bipartisan support and that is something to celebrate when you are watching the attacks across the country.”
All four bills celebrated on Wednesday had already been signed by the governor and become law. The new safeguards for health care providers include protections for doctors who treat patients who travel to Connecticut for treatment and seeks to shield them from having their licenses suspended or revoked.
“Essentially, [we are] protecting them professionally from any consequences for care that they’ve provided that’s safe, legal and within the standard of care that’s being attacked by someone in another state,” Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, said.
“We’ve created one of the strongest children’s data privacy bills in the country,” Maroney said.
Another new law requires public higher education institutions to develop plans to ensure that students have access to contraception, abortion services, and gender-affirming care either on campus or in the nearby community.
Although the law enabling pharmacists to prescribe birth control has already gone into effect, the policy requires participating pharmacists to complete a training program and the Department of Consumer Protection is still in the process of drafting oversight regulations.
After the event, Marra, the only Republican legislator in attendance, told reporters that the policy would help constituents in so-called “health care deserts” where there is limited access to medical providers.
“As Republicans we really should be supporting this,” Marra said. “As a pharmacist, one of my main loves of what is going on here is allowing access to medications for people who need them, especially across the state — across the country — we’re seeing gaps in where there is availability for health care and these bills are going to help that.”