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Rights and Regulations
Although some laws that address abortion and contraceptive access are obstructive and onerous, others protect women by ensuring their safety and consent in healthcare procedures. In Connecticut, our system of rights and regulations sometimes restricts and sometimes empowers women as they make reproductive decisions.
Freedom of Choice
In 1990, Connecticut decriminalized abortion and became one of four states to add an affirmative right to choose declaration to its state law. This provision states that "the decision to terminate a pregnancy prior to the viability of the fetus shall be solely that of the pregnant woman in consultation with her physician.” Once a pregnancy reaches viability, abortions can only be performed to preserve the life or health of the pregnant woman. (CGS § 19a-602(a), (b)).
State Constitutional Protection
The Connecticut Constitution protects the right to choose. In Doe v. Maher, the State Superior Court found that a woman's right to reproductive choice, the confidentiality between a patient and her doctor, and a person's right to sovereignty over their own health are constitutional and fundamental rights. This decision struck down a regulation limiting state medical assistance for abortion in cases of life endangerment without extending coverage to medically necessary abortion services. Doe v. Maher, 515 A.2d 134 (Conn. Super. Ct. 1986)
A similar restriction in the state of Illinois was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court under the U.S. Constitution. This restriction prohibited the allocation of state funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment of the woman. The Court found that states are not legally obligated to pay for the medically necessary abortions that the federal government will not reimburse under the Hyde Amendment. Williams v. Zbaraz, 448 U.S. 358 (1980)
Connecticut law requires women to meet with a counselor and sign a consent form before obtaining abortions.
In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court upheld the decision in Roe v. Wade that abortion is a constitutional right. However, the Court found that a state’s interest in the life of the unborn gives it the right to restrict abortion as long as the restriction does not place an "undue burden” on the patient or create a "substantial obstacle” to access of the procedure. Informed consent is one such constitutional regulation. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).
In Connecticut, prior to receiving abortion care at an outpatient clinic, a woman must meet with a qualified counselor, who will give her an oral explanation of the procedure and a description of the discomforts and risks. The woman, counselor, and the physician performing the abortion must sign a consent form that describes the "nature and consequences of the procedure which shall be used." (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 19a-116, 19a-116-1(c); enacted 1983, amended 1996).
Protection Against Clinic Violence
Connecticut law protects women seeking reproductive healthcare and medical personnel from blockades and violence.
Any person who engages in the use of force or threat for the purpose of depriving a person of equal protection of Connecticut or federal laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under Connecticut or federal laws, is guilty of a misdemeanor. If bodily injury or death results, the person is guilty of a felony. Any aggrieved person may seek injunctive relief, damages, and other equitable and just relief. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 52-571a, 53-37b; enacted 1993).
This law's legislative history demonstrates that it was designed to protect clinic access. As the law's sponsor, state Sen. George Jepsen, testified, "Twenty years after Roe vs. Wade was handed down by the Supreme Court, . . . . abortion remains a fundamental right under the law of our land . . . . Unfortunately, as opponents of choice have grown more desperate in the last few years, some, not all, some in the minority have resorted to clearly illegal tactics, systematic, even para-military attempts to shut down on a regular basis abortion clinics across our country. . . . [This law] protects the legitimate constitutional rights of women who seek nothing more than to exercise their right to choose." Statements on Senate Floor Concerning S.B. 1046 (June 2, 1993).
Post-Viability Abortion Restriction
Connecticut restricts post-viability abortions to those which are necessary to preserve the life and health of the woman.
Roe v. Wade established the trimester system for restricting abortion. The Supreme Court ruled that states could not impose restrictions on first trimester abortions, but could regulate abortion in the second and third trimester if said regulation pertained to the "preservation and protection of maternal health.” Additionally, the Court decided that post-viability abortion restrictions and prohibition were constitutional as long as exceptions were made to preserve the life or health of the mother. In Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court clarified its rule for late-term abortion regulations by stating that "the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors-- physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age-- relevant to the well-being of the patient.” Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973).
In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court replaced the trimester framework from Roe v. Wade with the "undue burden” standard, which stipulates that states may place regulations on abortion and abortion access as long as they are not too restrictive of a woman’s fundamental and constitutional right to the procedure. However, the post-viability abortion decision was kept in place. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).
Connecticut's post-viability restriction states that no abortion may be provided after viability. In keeping with federal law, there is an exception that allows late-term abortion when necessary to preserve the woman's life or health. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 19a-602(b); enacted 1990).
NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut supports the legal framework established in Roe v. Wade and does not oppose restrictions on post-viability abortion, such as Connecticut's, that contain adequate exceptions to protect the woman's life and health.