Courtesy of the House Democratic Office
On Tuesday night, the Connecticut State House passed HB 5414, a bill co-sponsored by Democratic Representatives Jilian Gilchrest and Matt Blumenthal. The bill expands the number of healthcare professionals who can perform first-trimester medical or vacuum abortions. It also puts in place a legal shield against anti-abortion vigilantes in states like Texas or Mississippi, who can use recently passed state laws to sue abortion providers in Connecticut who offer abortions to Mississippians or Texans. The bill could help protect Yale students from those states if they were to have abortions in Connecticut.
With a final vote of 87-60, 14 Democrats voted against the bill and seven Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
“This bill takes important steps to increase access to reproductive health care by aligning our provider eligibility statutes with the modern standard of care,” Blumenthal said. “The bill also provides legal protections for people who obtain, provide, or assist others in obtaining lawful reproductive health care here in the State of Connecticut.”
Protecting Connecticut and Out-of-State Residents From Lawsuits After Roe
According to Blumenthal, he and other members of the reproductive rights caucus have met with abortion rights groups across the state to learn more about the implications of anti-abortion bills in states like the US. Texas for Connecticut residents and healthcare providers.
“This bill will prevent our public agencies from being commandeered by other states,” Blumenthal told The News. “They will protect medical confidentiality by preventing the disclosure of medical records related to reproductive health care and will also prevent the execution of certain subpoenas. And those provisions contain a restitution provision that will allow a person sued out of state by one of these bounty-type statutes to seek restitution of attorneys’ fees and costs from our courts.
Blumenthal said Texas’ new vigilante abortion bill allows any Texan to sue Connecticut abortion providers who offer a Texas citizen an abortion in Connecticut. For example, if a Yale student from Texas has an abortion at Yale Family Planning, a subset of Yale Medicine, or another in-state abortion provider, then any Texas resident can sue the provider under the auspices of SB 8 from Texas. for a minimum of $10,000 in damages.
“You have a girlfriend-boyfriend who lives in Mississippi, and she gets pregnant,” said David Cohen, constitutional attorney at Drexel Law. “She goes back to school at Yale and finds out she’s pregnant. Her friend from Yale helps her get an abortion in CT. MS boyfriend sues Yale friend in MS court for wrongful death of his child.
HB 5414 creates a statute for the abortion provider, or any other Connecticuter who assisted someone to have an abortion, to bring an action for reimbursement, attorney’s fees, costs and other expenses related to the lawsuit brought under the laws of other states.
Blumenthal said efforts to strengthen Connecticuters’ legal shield have been largely driven by the fact that individual states have demonstrated that they use their “significant power to regulate and enforce their laws outside their borders.”
He pointed to SB 8 in Texas, as well as similar laws in Idaho and Missouri, which either removed all territorial restrictions or specifically targeted out-of-state clinics and people, as the reason for adoption. of this bill.
Another important aspect of this section of the bill is the strengthening of reproductive health medical records.
According to Liz Gustafson, state director of the National Abortion Rights Action League
and Blumenthal, officials and pro-choice groups fear that if Roe is overthrown, states like Texas, Mississippi and Idaho — which have moved to criminalize and penalize abortions — could issue subpoenas or dismissals. other enforcement orders to compel the surrender of records domiciled in Connecticut.
Blumenthal told the News that this bill will prevent those subpoenas from being enforceable since abortion was legal in Connecticut, which will not recognize another state’s claim to the legality of abortion.
The final facet of the legal shield portion of the bill further clarifies the state’s right to extradite with respect to reproductive health care proceedings.
“[This bill] will change our extradition statutes so that we are not handing over individuals who have done nothing wrong here in the state of Connecticut, and they have never been to states seeking their extradition,” Blumenthal said.
He further explained that some states like Mississippi have started debating bills that can ask other states to extradite abortion providers from Connecticut to Mississippi, which necessitated this section of the bill. law.
“This bill is a critical step forward for our state and country,” said ACLU of Connecticut policy adviser Jess Zaccagnino. “Connecticut must move forward to ensure that no matter what, abortion access here is as secure as legal abortion rights. Our state can and should be a leader. in dismantling barriers to access to abortion and ensuring that abortion is accessible, affordable and accessible to all Everyone deserves to have access to abortion care in their community, in their the deadlines he chooses and by the service provider he trusts.
According to Gilchrest, Roe was codified by the state of Connecticut in 1990. However, in the law that codified Roe, only doctors were allowed to perform aspiration abortion, which is one of the most common types of abortion. common in the first trimester.
“I was told our abortion law was outdated,” Gilchrest said. “And we should align with 14 other states in allowing advanced practitioners to perform suction abortion. And so that’s really the impetus behind the bill. And hopefully the Senate will consider the bill on Friday or early next week.
HB 5414 expands the groups of healthcare professionals who can now perform an aspiration abortion to allow advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, and nurse midwives to perform the procedure.
According to Gustafson, the average wait time for an abortion or even to get an appointment with an OB-GYN or other reproductive health professional is about two weeks in the state.
State House Republicans have repeatedly opposed the expansion of the skilled abortion provider bill. House Republican Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said in the room that he believes under this new bill, women will have abortions by inexperienced or untrained providers.
“I want assurance that any woman who will undergo any type of reproductive procedure will have a qualified medical professional who will perform this service,” Candelora said. “This legislation does not guarantee that. And we’re just doing a disservice to anyone who thinks they’re going to these clinics under qualified supervision.
Berger-Girvalo and Gilchrest pushed back against that accusation, saying it was “disrespectful” to say that medical professionals would perform a procedure for which they had not been properly trained. Gilchrest added that this bill would also allow doctors who are not doctors to acquire the required training.
Republicans have accused Democrats of failing to bring state public health director Manisha Juthani to testify before House judiciary or public health committees, accusing the process of being “rushed”.
Gilchrest told the News that the committee has been in constant contact with the state DPH and has received a letter of support for the bill from the department, which the ranking members, who are Republicans in a House controlled by the Democrats, also received. She explained that this letter explained how non-physician medical professionals were certified to perform abortions but were unable to do so due to state laws.
Governor Ned Lamont is a supporter of the bill. His senior press secretary, Anthony Anthony, told the News that the governor will sign the bill when he arrives at his office.
House Democrats don’t know when the bill will be considered by the Senate; however, Blumenthal speculated that the bill would be taken up next week and signed shortly after by Lamont.
“I can’t imagine a bill as critical as this not being called to the Senate,” Berger-Girvalo said. “That would be unfathomable.”
Twenty-six states across the country have passed laws restricting or criminalizing all abortions in their states in anticipation of a Dodds v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade.