By Nancy Flanders
Following a heated debate, Connecticut Senators passed a bill that will expand abortion in the already abortion-friendly state. The bill will allow non-doctors to commit abortions in order to expand access, and also protect a Connecticut-residing abortionist or any resident who assists in an illegal abortion in another state and faces a lawsuit under the Texas Heartbeat Act or a similar law.
The Senate voted 25-9 with two Republicans absent shortly before midnight on Friday. It had previously passed the House 87-60 and Governor Ned Lamont has vowed to sign it.
Under the bill, advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, and nurse-midwives will be able to commit first-trimester surgical abortions in addition to distributing the abortion pill. Currently, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England is facing lawsuits in Connecticut involving non-doctors at their facilities. The bill was created because most physicians do not want to commit abortions and women are waiting up to two weeks to undergo one.
The bill would also protect a Connecticut resident who assists in an illegal abortion in Texas or another state with a similar law to that of Texas’ Heartbeat Act. The Heartbeat Act allows private citizens to sue abortionists and anyone who assists in obtaining an abortion once a preborn child’s heartbeat is detected, usually at about six weeks. (A preborn human’s heart begins beating just 21 days after fertilization.) The bill changes Connecticut’s extradition statute so that Connecticut residents cannot be summoned by another state.
One of the most outspoken legislators in opposition to the bill is Rep. Trenee McGee (D-West Haven), who inspired members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus with her passionate speech.
“I want to speak to the history of this industry and why I think it’s destructive to my community,” McGee said, referencing the fact that Black women “obtain 36.2% of all reported abortions. Black women have the highest abortion ratio in the country — 474 abortions per 1,000 live births.”
Though he supported the bill, Sen. Douglas McCrory, a Democrat from Hartford, said McGee’s speech was one of the best he had heard. “She said [abortion is] used as birth control in our community,” he said. “I’m just giving you the facts. You make your own decision. … Rep. McGee pulled the scab off something. Yes, she did.”
Sen. Patricia Billie Miller, a Democrat from Stamford who voted against the bill, spoke about the racist history of so-called family planning, stating, “Babies were ripped from Black mothers, African mothers, during slavery. That’s the history that Black women and Native American women have had to endure. … There’s no way that I can accept a system that would intentionally take a baby from a mother. … yes, they sterilized men, too. It wasn’t just women.”
She continued, “I know I’m not going to be the most popular person after tonight. [McGee] said, in the black community, abortions are birth control. That’s true. … I hear family planning — code word for abortion. Why can’t it be a code word for planning your family?”
She continued, “I agree it is her body to choose. … I cannot support a system that has tried, systemically, to get rid of a race of people. … Sorry, this is about racism, and that’s how I view this. … I’m sorry if I’m emotional … but this goes back to Africa for me. … This goes deeper than just choice. … Sometimes we don’t have the choice because we don’t have the money.”
Sen. Marilyn Moore of Bridgeport said she worked for Planned Parenthood for eight years but was now thinking differently. “What I learned at Planned Parenthood was how much racism and distrust there is in the medical system. … People talk about why Black people don’t want to get vaccinated because we’ve had medical apartheid. .. Right now, I’m not feeling good about this bill. Planned Parenthood will need to step up and say we need to do better.”