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Connecticut looks to expand abortion rights in response to out-of-state restrictions

A 2012 file photo shows the Connecticut State Capitol building in Hartford.
Jessica Hill
A 2012 file photo shows the Connecticut State Capitol building in Hartford.

Lawmakers in Connecticut have approved a bill that would expand the types of medical professionals who can provide abortion services in the state and shield residents from facing penalties under other states' anti-abortion laws.

The legislation is partly a response to the wave of new measures in conservative states restricting abortion access and in some cases levying civil and criminal penalties on people who perform them.

The vote by the Connecticut legislature comes ahead of an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision in the coming weeks over a landmark abortion case. In that case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the court is deciding whether a Mississippi ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before a fetus is viable outside the womb, is constitutional. Fetal viability is typically between 22 and 24 weeks.

Some Republican leaders say they expect the court will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that enshrined the constitutional right to an abortion in the first two trimesters, and leave it up to states to decide whether to permit abortions.

"This legislation takes action to protect our state from overreaching laws from others," Connecticut state Sen. Steve Cassano said in a statement. "As other states pass increasingly restrictive bills, we are countering those bills by protecting residents and visitors alike from others seeking to persecute them."

Other blue states, such as Colorado and New Jersey, have recently codified the right to an abortion into state law as a contrast to the more conservative jurisdictions that have cracked down on abortion access.

The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports reproductive rights, reported that as of April 15, a total of 33 abortion restrictions had been enacted in nine states so far in 2022. By comparison, 11 measures protecting abortion access have passed in seven states.

Under House Bill 5414, people or organizations in Connecticut who are sued for receiving, performing or providing support for abortions in other states can countersue for damages and other costs.

In Texas, for example, the controversial abortion law known as S.B. 8 allows people to bring civil lawsuits against those who allegedly help Texas residents get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

Connecticut's governor would also be restricted from extraditing someone who did something in Connecticut that leads to a crime in another state if what they did is legal in Connecticut.

The bill also expands who could perform abortions. Advanced practice registered nurses, nurse-midwives and physician assistants would be able to conduct medication and aspiration abortions in Connecticut.

The state Senate approved the bill on Friday after it passed the House of Representatives earlier this month.

It now goes to Gov. Ned Lamont for his signature. The Democrat has said he will sign the bill into law, according to the Hartford Courant.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]