The Connecticut legislative session ended at midnight on May 9th with some incredible wins for reproductive freedom here in our state. Over the course of four months, we mobilized hundreds of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut members to educate, testify, email, call, and lobby legislators at our State Capitol building on critical reproductive freedom issues. We were honored to see our grassroots base and legislative champions push the needle forward in Connecticut with some key pieces of legislation. This success, however, was not without a fight…
H.B. 5210 An Act mandating insurance coverage of essential health benefits and expanding mandated health benefits for women, children, and adolescents. This bill protects key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in state law including the 10 essential health benefits and women’s preventive services. It also goes beyond the Affordable Care Act on contraceptive access by allowing 12-month dispensing of birth control at one time.
This bill faced a contentious debate in the House of Representatives with Representative Rob Sampson introduced an amendment to take us back to the days before the Affordable Care Act, when health insurance plans routinely lacked coverage for women’s healthcare. There were more than a few representatives who seemed to have forgotten that before the ACA, many women were not able to access affordable insurance coverage for services like contraception and maternity care.
Representative Terrie Wood and Representative Matt Lesser reminded the room of these benefits and what it means not to guarantee this coverage:
“This bill is about freedom of insecurity with healthcare, particularly reproductive healthcare… Birth control is about basic prevention. We owe this to every woman in our state… contraception coverage has saved women money.” – Representative Terrie Wood
“This amendment would say that women have to jump through hoops… they have to anticipate any medical issues that may come up. This would create a double standard for women that doesn’t apply to men in this state.” – Representative Matt Lesser
By the way, let’s not forget Representative Rob Sampson comparing women’s health insurance to car insurance. This tweet sums up our feelings about that…
Representative Sampson’s amendment was voted down, and H.B. 5210 passed through the House and then sailed through the Senate!
H.B. 5148 An Act concerning pregnant patients exercising living wills. Did you know that people who are pregnant in Connecticut are blocked from creating or exercising a living will? H.B. 5148 ends this discriminatory policy and we were thrilled to see this pass unanimously in both the House and Senate. Our Deputy Director, Brenna, delivered powerful testimony on this bill:
“End of life decisions are deeply personal and should be made by the individual with the support of their family and their medical providers… If this law were to be implemented as it currently exists, a pregnant individual could be reduced to what is in essence an incubator… H.B. 5418 is a straightforward bill that fixes a glaring violation of a women ’s constitutional rights.” – Brenna Doyle, Deputy Director
S.B. 206 An Act authorizing pregnancy as a qualifying event for special enrollment periods for certain individuals. This critical piece of legislation allows maternity care coverage to be available to people who have unintended pregnancies and lack coverage. This access to insurance coverage is important for maternal health, infant health, and preventing pregnant people from falling into debt because of unforeseen costs of unintended pregnancies that are not covered by insurance.
S.B. 13 An act concerning fair treatment of incarcerated persons. S.B. 13 creates one of the most comprehensive laws in the country regarding the dignity of incarcerated women. This legislation prohibits the shackling of pregnant people during labor or delivery, prohibits the use of leg and waist restraints on people in the 2nd or 3rd trimester or during the postpartum period, provides feminine hygiene products at no cost, provides new and expecting mothers with prenatal, labor, and postpartum services and support, and establishes family-centric visitation policies. This legislation also makes Connecticut the first state in the country to require its Department of Corrections to create an affirming policy regarding transgender inmates, including the requirement that inmates are placed in a facility that corresponds with their gender identity.
“Restraints are a health risk to incarcerated women and their children. This is about the mother, the child, the family, the extended family, and the community. This is a violation of Constitutional law and international human rights.” – Representative Robyn Porter
As we celebrate these critical wins, we also know that our work is far from over. Some key reproductive freedom bills did not make it through this legislative session including paid family & medical leave, limiting the deceptive advertising practices of fake women’s health centers, creating a $15 minimum wage, and a fair work week to limit on-call scheduling practices. We will continue to educate, organize, and build power around the state through this year.