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'Very dangerous' Roe v. Wade reversal would heighten importance of Connecticut abortion law

Planned Parenthood supporters
Sarah Mirk

A draft of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that appears to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked on Monday. States are scrambling to pass legislation to protect reproductive rights in their states, or outright ban abortions.

The draft ruling could overturn the 1973 landmark case held that pregnant people have a constitutional right to abortion until 24 weeks. NPR has independently verified the authenticity of the draft of the opinion. Drafts can and often do change before they are issued.

Nancy Stanwood, incoming Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, has been an OBGYN for over 20 years. She said the ruling would not ban abortion nationwide. It would allow individual states to pass restrictions — or outright bans — on abortion.

“This outcome will be unprecedented and very dangerous, as it will allow up to 26 states who look to want to move in this direction to ban abortion in their states,” Standwood said. “And that really will significantly harm the health and dignity of the people who live there.”

“I think it's really important to recognize when I take care of my patients that I focus on their needs, and that they should have the right to make their own personal medical decisions. It shouldn't be a politician; it shouldn't be a court. It should be up to them to decide what's right for them in their lives,” Standwood said.

She said if Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will be a generational crisis for access to abortion care — one of her organization’s worst fears come true.

“States like Connecticut, and our surrounding states in New England will be really important locations for people to travel to get the care that they need,” Standwood said. “But we know not everybody has the ability to travel so that this type of ban on care in up to 26 states will only further exacerbate the health care disparities that exist for communities who have systemically had to live in poverty and for communities of color.”

She said Planned Parenthood clinics that offer abortion services in Connecticut have already started to see patients from other states, particularly from Texas, since those patients no longer have access in their own states.

Governor Ned Lamont said he’ll sign legislation that protects doctors and patients in Connecticut from being sued by other states. The legislation would also expand access to abortions by allowing nurses, midwives and physician assistants to perform the procedure.

The law would take effect on July 1. That’s after the U.S. Supreme Court goes into summer recess in late June, when an official ruling is expected — which appears to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Stanwood said Lamont signing the bill couldn’t come soon enough. Planned Parenthood has already started by keeping clinics open later and making online scheduling easier for everyone so they can have a high quality of care that every patient deserves to have.

State Senator Heather Somers, R-Groton, told the state General Assembly last week during deliberations that the bill isn’t an abortion bill, but needed protection for clinicians in Connecticut.

“I can't think of any other procedure that is done in the state of Connecticut, that's legal, that is not legal in another state where the state wants to come here and intervene and sue our clinicians,” said Somers, the ranking Republican on the state public health committee. “And I think that we have a duty to protect our Connecticut clinicians. We don't have enough of them.”

Somers also said allowing nurses, midwives and physician assistants to perform the procedure allows them to work at the top of their scope of practice.

“The only reason why we are having this conversation and having to go back and vote on this is because of our laws that we have on the books from 32 years ago, put in statute that an MD is the only one allowed to perform this procedure,” Somers said. “Medicine has changed over the last 32 years as has the scope.”

“I'm not even sure we had physician assistants 32 years ago or advanced midwife nurses 32 years ago,” Somers added.

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.