Abortion access groups in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are merging together to preserve reproductive healthcare in New England as more and more people travel to seek access to abortions.
Advocates said they can also create a “regional powerhouse” that can serve as a model for groups in states where anti-abortion groups have successfully pushed for bans.
“This is not a goodbye, rather this is just a beginning,” Liz Gustafson, state director of Pro-Choice Connecticut, said during a press conference at the Capitol Tuesday.
Pro-Choice Connecticut is joining Reproductive Equity Now, an abortion access advocacy group in Massachusetts. Reproductive Equity Now is also expanding into New Hampshire.
President Rebecca Hart Holder said she hopes the group can take strategies from Connecticut and Massachusetts, where state lawmakers have passed laws preserving abortion access, and find success in New Hampshire, where lawmakers voted in 2021 to ban abortion after 24 weeks.
“That is exactly the kind of thing we need across all of New England. We need to pass a law in one state, figuring out what’s working and what’s not working, tweak it in another state and vice versa,” Hart Holder said.
The merger comes as New Hampshire has a gubernatorial election next year.
Hart Holder said the move is also above providing support even in states that have preserved abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion nationwide, in June 2022.
Since that time, states have seen an influx of people from out of state seeking access to abortions and other reproductive healthcare procedures.
Clinics in Illinois saw a massive spike in out-of-state patients after Missouri banned abortions altogether in 2022.
Hart Holder said that overwhelmed clinics in Illinois, pushing some patients to Pennsylvanie and other states. That ripple effect has spread across the country.
Researchers with Harvard University and Planned Parenthood reported earlier this month that Massachusetts saw a 37% jump in out-of-state patients, with some traveling from states as far away as Texas and Louisian.
Abortion are fully banned in 21 states, creating what Hart Holder called “regional abortion access deserts.”
“If you have the money, you get on a plane and you come here,” Hart Holder said.
She also said that’s created two needs for those advocated for abortion access: protect service providers and help people understand their options.
The legislature approved a law this past session to protect medical professionals who face adverse reactions in other states for providing abortions or other legal reproductive healthcare services.
A handful of states that have banned gender-reaffirming care for minors also allow medical malpractice suits against out-of-state medical care providers who perform those procedures.
Connecticut’s law prohibits the Department of Public Health from using such lawsuits, sanctions or other actions to punish a licensed professional when those services are performed according to Connecticut regulations.
Hart Holder said her group pointed to the law as a model for Massachusetts lawmakers, providing an example of how regional partnerships can find success.
She also said Reproductive Equity Now will provide information on where people can find reproductive services.
She noted even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, some patients may have crossed state lines just because another clinic was closer and more convenient.
State and federal officials also said they hope Reproductive Equity Now can lead to more regional partnerships.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Democrats in Congress are trying to push legislation to ensure a right to abortion nationwide, as well as another bill that would protect women who travel for reproductive healthcare.
“We’re going to be the model for the whole nation,” Blumenthal said.