HARTFORD — The legislature appears poised to debate abortion, access to contraception, workplace conditions for pregnant and nursing mothers and other women’s health issues this session.
A group of Democratic female lawmakers, backed by several of their male counterparts, unveiled five proposals Monday focusing on women’s health and protections in the workplace. They said the proposals are an effort to build off of nationwide protests on Saturday, but also come in response to legislation they characterized as being anti-women.
Pro-life advocates said the bills are needed to start a discussion on the state’s abortion law. Those on both sides of the aisle said Monday they welcome that discussion.
“I’m ready for that debate,” State Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, said during a press conference in the Legislative Office Building. “We’re going to show, again, that overwhelmingly the people of Connecticut, not just the women of Connecticut, ...are behind us.”
Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said he wants a public hearing, blaming lobbyists for successfully blocking efforts in the past to discuss abortion in Connecticut.
“I’m thrilled that this is happening,” he told reporters after the press conference. “There has not been a serious discussion on this issue in many, many years.”
Wolfgang said he’d consider a public hearing a victory. The last significant debate about abortion law in the General Assembly was in 2007.
The bills announced during Monday’s press conference include legislation that would preserve the right to pregnancy-related healthcare, as well as others preserving provisions under the Affordable Care Act, such as access to contraceptives.
The package of bills would also continue the ACA’s requirement that breast pumps be covered by insurance and improve workplace conditions for nursing mothers.
Other proposals would seek to eliminate delays to those seeking time-sensitive healthcare for pregnancies or contraception, and to improve workplace protections for pregnant women.
Linehan said she was able to bring her jaundice son home from the hospital after just two days and nurse him to health, thus avoiding a costly extended stay, because of insurance coverage of a breast pump.
Rep. Kelly Luxenberg, D-Manchester, meanwhile, said she is still paying large medical bills after a 2009 Pap smear found a medical issue that could have resulted in cancer because she switched jobs and was temporarily denied insurance coverage due to a pre-existing medical condition. The ACA prohibits such rejections.
Lawmakers said they put the proposals forward because of debate at the national level. Some of the bills would continue ACA requirements in Connecticut should Congress repeal parts of or the entire federal law. They also expressed concern about other bills proposed by some Republican state legislators.
In particular, they objected to proposed bills that would require women to have a ultrasound prior to getting an abortion, and one that would mandate parental notification of minors seeking an abortion. Connecticut requires that minors must first receive counseling, but is one of only a handful that doesn’t require notification.
Wolfgang insisted that even pro-choice lawmakers would support parental notification, which he said would increase the chance law enforcement would be notified whenever a minor is impregnated. Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford and Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, have introduced or co-sponsored bills proposing the requirement.
Staffers from pregnancy crisis centers around the state said vaginal ultrasounds are more thorough, and are more likely to find cysts or other medical issues.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said he wouldn’t let “any anti-choice, any anti-women bills to be voted on and passed in the state Senate.”