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Connecticut Abortion Law
AN ACT CONCERNING THE REPEAL OF CERTAIN STATUTES SUMMARY:
This act repeals the criminal statutes on abortion and makes the decision to terminate a pregnancy prior to the viability of the fetus solely that of the pregnant woman, in consultation with her physician. It prohibits abortions after viability unless necessary to preserve the woman's life or health.
The act requires girls under age 16 to receive specific pregnancy information and counseling before obtaining an abortion.
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 1990
The act requires a physician or "counselor," as defined by the act, to provide information and counseling. The following professionals meet the act's definition of counselor:
2. licensed psychologist,
3. certified independent social worker,
4. certified marriage and family therapist,
5. ordained member of the clergy,
6. certified physician's assistant,
7. licensed nurse-midwife,
8. certified guidance counselor, and
9. licensed registered or practical nurse.
Content of the Counseling
The act requires the counseling to be given in a manner and in language that the girl will understand, and it requires the counseling to cover the following areas.
1. Objectivity. The counselor must explain that the information is intended neither to persuade the girl to have an abortion nor to carry the pregnancy to term.
2. Right to Change One's Mind. The counselor must explain to the girl that if she does decide to have an abortion, she can change her mind at any time before the abortion. If she decides not to have an abortion, she can change her mind at any time during which she can have a legal abortion, i.e., before viability of the fetus.
3. Alternatives Available. The counselor must explain the alternatives to having an abortion. The explanation must include informing the girl of the possibility of having the child and keeping it, putting it up for adoption, or placing the child with a relative or in foster care. The counselor must also inform the girl that public and private agencies are available to assist her with the alternative she chooses and that she can have a list of these agencies and their services.
4. Birth Control Information. The counselor must explain to the girl that she can get birth control information from public and private agencies and that she can have a list of these agencies.
5. Parental Notification. The counselor must discuss with the girl the possibility of involving her parents or other adult family members in her decision on the pregnancy. The counselor must also discuss with the girl whether she thinks involving her parents would be in her best interest.
6. Asking Questions. The counselor must give the girl a chance to ask questions about pregnancy, abortion, and child care. The counselor must give her the information she wants or tell her where she can get it.
Signed Form Required
The act requires the counselor to have the girl sign and date a form that specifies the information she has received. Since the information must have been in "a manner and language" she could understand, the form presumably must be as well, but this is not specified. The counselor must sign and date the form and include his business address and phone number.
The counselor must keep a copy of the form for the girl's medical record and give her the original form. But if she requests, the counselor must send the original to the attending physician.
The act does not require the counseling procedures and forms in medical emergencies that, for the patient's safety or well-being, require an immediate abortion. A doctor performing such an abortion must indicate the medical emergency in the medical records.
Failure to Comply
The act does not expressly say that a physician is prohibited from performing an abortion unless the girl has first had counseling, but this seems to be its implication. The act does not impose a penalty for performing an abortion without complying with the counseling requirements or for a post-viability abortion. Thus, CGS Sec. 54-195, which imposes a $100 fine for violation of any statute without an express penalty, could apply.
Repeal of Criminal Sanctions
The act repeals the criminal statutes on abortion. These statutes have been basically unenforceable, due to a federal court injunction, since 1973. They made obtaining an abortion a crime punishable by up to two years in prison, disseminating information on abortion punishable by up to one year, and performing an abortion (except to save the mother's life) punishable by up to five years.
Despite the federal injunction, the state Supreme Court has held that the criminal sanctions are enforceable against a nonphysician who performs an abortion, State v. Menillo, 171 Conn. 141 (1976). The act repeals that application of the criminal abortion statutes as well, but practicing medicine without a license remains a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison (CGS Sec. 20-14).