Yale Daily News

Pregnant people from out-of-state who come to Connecticut for an abortion may soon have their travel expenses covered by the state. 

With the State General Assembly’s 2023 legislative session in full swing, members of the state’s Reproductive Rights Caucus, State Treasurer Erick Russell and reproductive rights advocates have been working to establish a Safe Haven fund for individuals from out of state seeking abortions. 

Additionally, they have looked to expand Medicaid coverage and protect Connecticut providers of abortion care. Meanwhile, some members of the Republican caucus have also put forward a parental consent law that would require minors to notify their guardians if they are getting an abortion. 

While the General Assembly continues to legislate on these issues, Governor Ned Lamont has committed Connecticut to the Reproductive Freedom Alliance — a newly launched non-partisan 20-state coalition looking to expand reproductive freedom in their states. Meanwhile, Attorney General William Tong has signed onto an amicus brief to reject a challenge brought in a case in the U.S. District Court of Northern Texas to revoke the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the medication abortion drug Mifepristone. 

“We’re incredibly thankful to have both the Lamont administration and our champions in the General Assembly who are continuing to invest in solutions that not only increase access to abortion and reproductive healthcare, but they also invest in the infrastructure and long term sustainability of access in the state,” said Gretchen Raffa, vice president of public policy, advocacy and organizing at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, some pregnant people have begun to come to Connecticut from other states to seek abortions, according to State Treasurer Erick Russell. Thus, the Reproductive Caucus and the Treasurer’s Office are working to set up a fund of roughly a quarter of a million dollars to subsidize travel and housing in Connecticut while a person seeks an abortion. 

Russell told the News that the state’s Safe Harbor Fund was originally a campaign idea he floated during the 2022 election cycle after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. 

Under the current proposal, the state legislature plans to appropriate a quarter of a million dollars for the fund, while also allowing for the Treasurer’s Office to solicit private donations and invest portions of the funding. The money from the Safe Harbor Fund will be distributed as a grant to reproductive healthcare centers who will then provide the funding to people coming to Connecticut to seek an abortion. 

“I’m looking at the fact that the people most affected by Dobbs are women of color and folks from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and members of the LGBTQ+ community,” Russell said. “So I want to be able to help them out so that they can come to pro-choice states and get the care they need.” 

Republican State Leader Vincent Candelora has criticized the fund, saying that the state currently has a “lot of issues like housing and affordability” and that the legislature should focus on “spending on Connecticut residents.” 

He added that even though the state has a surplus right now, the expiration of federal funding under the American Rescue Plan means that the legislature should be careful with their spending. 

In addition to the Safe Haven Fund, the Reproductive Caucus of the State Legislature, which is chaired by Rep. Jillian Gillchrest and Rep. Matt Blumenthal LAW ’15, is working on a set of proposals to further increase funding and access to abortions. 

Gillchrest told the News that a priority for the caucus is increasing the amount of funding that Medicaid provides for reproductive healthcare from the current 90 percent to full funding. Moreover, this proposal includes a provision to create funding sources within the state to cover reproductive healthcare costs, including abortions, for any person who travels to Connecticut and qualifies for Medicaid. 

Gillchrest and Blumenthal are also working on legislation that would expand funding and training for advanced practice nurses, physicians assistants and nurse-midwives who are now allowed to provide aspiration-abortions — a procedure that uses a vacuum source to remove an embryo or fetus through the cervix — during the first trimester, under a law signed by Lamont in May of 2022. 

Alongside the increase in funding for these medical providers, Blumenthal told the News that the Reproductive Caucus is also working to better protect doctors who provide abortions from punitive actions in other states. Connecticut is a member of various medical compacts where a provider in Connecticut is also licensed to practice in other member states. Disciplinary action in one of these states may then follow a medical provider licensed in Connecticut. 

“One tactic of anti-choice groups across the country is to target providers who provide abortion care and attack their licenses through filing disciplinary complaints,” Blumenthal told the News. “Our legislation is meant to stop this and provide a protection for providers that would basically ignore a disciplinary complaint if it had to do with providing an abortion.” 

Attorney General William Tong joins suit to protect abortion bills 

Currently, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas is hearing a case brought forward by the Alliance of Hippocratic Medicine, a collection of anti-abortion groups who wish to revoke the FDA’s approval of the medication abortion drug mifepristone. 

Mifepristone is a two-dosage medical abortion pill that was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000. The FDA has consistently upheld its ruling, even though anti-abortion activists contend that the FDA ignored harmful side effects when it was approved. 

According to EveryDay Health, a misoprostol-only regimen can sometimes cause certain symptoms and side effects, including cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and chills. More than 50 percent of abortions in the United States take place through the drug. 

According to Tong, a ruling by the District Court of Texas against the FDA would drastically reduce access to safe abortion care and miscarriage management. 

“Mifepristone has been safely used for medication abortion for more than two decades. This lawsuit is one more radical effort to reject science and inject partisan politics into the doctor-patient relationship,” Tong wrote to the News. “The ban this group is seeking would impact every state—including Connecticut—and would force women who choose to end their pregnancies into unnecessary surgical procedures. This reckless challenge has zero basis in science or the law and must be rejected.” 

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overruled Roe v. Wade and the federal right to an abortion in June. 

Yash Roy covered City Hall and State Politics for the News. He also served as a Production & Design editor, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion chair for the News. Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, he is a '25 in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Global Affairs.