HARTFORD, Conn. — Despite Gov. Ned Lamont signing new laws expanding abortion access in some areas, the pro-life movement in Connecticut achieved several defensive legislative “victories” in what could have been a devastating session.
In reaction to the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, state abortion activists, including the governor, were “firmly committed to ensuring that reproductive health care remains safe, legal, and accessible for all who need it” as stated in a July 19 press conference.
Lamont and lawmakers initially envisioned codifying abortion in Connecticut’s constitution, and an “abortion tourism” bill requiring state taxpayers to support a $2 million fund to defray transportation, lodging and contraceptive costs for non-state residents seeking an abortion.
Both were killed this past session.
Instead, the laws passed protect medical providers from adverse actions taken by another state; allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control; increase access to reproductive care by college students at public institutions of higher education; and protect the privacy of patient health data online.
To many pro-life advocates, these laws mere “consolation prizes,” as labeled by Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, and encouraging in a state where abortion rights have been secured in statute since 1990.
“Connecticut’s pro-life movement had its best legislative session in years,” Wolfgang told the Register. “The bills that Gov. Lamont signed into law are, by comparison, paltry — solutions in search of a problem.”
“[Pro-abortionists] overreached, and their number one goal for this legislative session in the deep, very blue state of Connecticut, went down in flames,” Wolfgang added.
Connecticut is considered a “safe harbor” for abortion rights after the General Assembly preemptively passed sweeping legislation prior to Dobbs. The new laws, however, “further safeguard the rights of all persons in Connecticut to access an abortion and the contraceptive care they choose,” directly opposing other states enacting pro-life legislation, according to Gov. Lamont.
But to Lisa Maloney — president of the Connecticut Pregnancy Care Coalition (CPCC), which consists of pregnancy resource centers across the state — some of the new laws are not only futile as abortion seekers “didn’t have issues with access in Connecticut,” but are also potentially detrimental to women’s healthcare, particularly allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control.
“Birth control pills are not safe for everyone, and there are people out there who are at risk for blood clots, migraines or other complications. Without knowing a patient’s history and not being a physician, APRN [Advanced Practice Registered Nurse] or PA [Physician’s Assistant],” Maloney told the Register, this law “puts women at risk because it is outside of the scope a pharmacist is trained in.”
However, Maloney said she is “grateful” the abortion tourism bill failed, believing the pro-life movement needs to “take a win where we can get it,” while criticizing state policy makers for being blind to residents’ harsh economic realities.
“I work with clients every day who cannot meet their basic needs. What about [assisting in] some of those things?” she told the Register. “It’s important that sometimes we step outside of the pro-abortion, pro-life argument and look at some of these bills that just don’t make sense financially, where people are leaving in droves because they can’t afford to live here.”
‘Virtue Signaling to Abortion Elite’
Wolfgang, likewise, found it concerning about the state protecting abortionists, since it “lowers the care for women by licensing providers who break the law in their own states,” but added this pro-abortion measure “isn’t something to really crow about” when considering worse bills initially proposed that died — like Democratic lawmakers proposing to ban “any state contract with or payment to any business that has any policy of declining to dispense any reproductive healthcare medication where doing so is legally permitted.”
“They are passing laws against threats that don’t exist, but these laws get their own people very worked up just in time for elections or fundraising,” he told the Register.
Meanwhile, Chris Healy, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, the local Church’s state public policy and advocacy office, assessed that the Lamont administration has been attempting to transform the state into an “abortion Disneyland,” and that the new laws are “more grand-standing, virtue signaling to the abortion elite to further highlight the egregious pro-death culture of Connecticut.”
Yet he argued the state’s abortion advocates are completely disconnected from reality by championing such progressive, “repugnant” ideas throughout the legislative session, doing a “disservice to pro-choice people who believe there should be some limits,” as he told the Register.
“These bills the Lamont administration signed give people, reasonable people and people of faith who may be pro-choice now or indifferent, something to look at and say, ‘This isn’t exactly what kind of world we want to live in. This isn’t a caring, thoughtful world or state,’” he added.
As indicated by May 2022 WTNH-News 8 poll, abortion is a more nuanced issue in the Constitution State. The poll indicated that 9% of state residents said abortion should be illegal in all cases, 23% wanted to prohibit them except in cases of rape, incest or life/health of the mother, 14% supported a cutoff at six weeks, 20% said it should be legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, and only 34% said abortion should be legal in all cases. Additionally, the Connecticut Catholic Conference’s 13th Annual Report about “The State of Abortion in Connecticut,” notes that the state has experienced a 32% decline in the number of reported abortions between 2010-2019, while total reported abortions declined by 37% from a high of 14,534 in 2007.
“Culturally, we’re coming around,” Healy told the Register. “Even in Connecticut, we’re seeing the growth of pregnancy care centers as opposed to abortion clinics, and the abortion lobbyists are desperate because of the Dobbs decision.”
Pro-Lifers Look Forward
While the legislative victories are more defensive than offensive, pro-life advocates are aware the failed bills could return next session, such as enshrining abortion in the state constitution. And for some, like Maloney, there are indications abortion advocates may turn their attention to pregnancy resource centers.
“They still see us as the enemy of women’s reproductive healthcare, which gets frustrating from our end as pregnancy resource centers because I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and it wasn’t until 2015 that I did anything up at the Capitol, and that was only because they started attacking our work,” Maloney told the Register. “[But] we’re not going anywhere. We have been around a long time.”
For context, last year, CPCC served 3,610 clients and credits saving Connecticut more than $2.8 million by providing pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, sexually transmitted infections (STI) tests, material assistance and educational classes.
Yet amending the constitution is a dangerous road for abortion advocates to embark on, Healy suggested to the Register.
“Even the abortion people realize that if they want to have a constitutional fight over this, which includes people going to the ballot, they may not get the outcome they think,” he said. “I don’t think they could face that defeat. … Once you put it on the ballot, it becomes a whole different risk.”
Similarly, Wolfgang said he believes support in Connecticut for a resolution to amend the constitution is a “mile wide and an inch deep” and could potentially “backfire.” However, there are also other avenues for abortion advocates to sneak in protections in the constitution, such as a proposed “right to privacy” amendment. Introduced this past legislative session, the resolution that eventually died would have protected the “fundamental right to reproductive freedom, including, but not limited to, the ability to make and effectuate decisions to prevent, continue or end one’s own pregnancy.”
Pro-life advocates are encouraged by the legislative defeats, especially when Gov. Lamont and the Democratic Party hold a drastic majority in the General Assembly, and by the increased attendance at 2nd Annual Connecticut March for Life on March 22, during which several thousand people rallied and marched at the state Capitol. Wolfgang said he hopes to build on the momentum to achieve legislative victories like passing a parental notification bill — requiring parents to be notified about their child who is seeking an abortion.
Now that the Legislature is once again in-person post-pandemic, he hopes pro-life advocacy will be more effective since having a presence at the capitol made “all the difference to lobby” in defeating the pro-abortion bills this past session. He continues to look forward to the day “when every unborn child in Connecticut will be protected in law and welcomed in life.”
“In Connecticut, abortion has been in state statute since 1990, so just as overturning Roe v. Wade was the ultimate goal for the pro-life movement for 49 years, here in Connecticut, overturning our 1990 law that still keeps abortion on the books is our ultimate goal,” he told the Register. “That’s what we march for, that’s what we work for every year.”