The REACH Fund of Connecticut, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding abortion care, has begun making grants to abortion providers. “People think that because abortion is legal here and Connecticut has a lot of wealthy areas that there isn’t a need, but there is,” said co-founder Jessica Puk. Medicaid covers abortion in Connecticut, but Puk says the fund will address a need among many marginalized groups, including undocumented women, low-income people who earn too much to be covered by Medicaid, and those who have private insurance with a high deductible or copay costs. “These are real people who need to access real health care and are hitting real barriers to it,” she said. Puk and three other women began organizing the fund in the summer of 2021.
In Connecticut, abortion remains legal after Roe v. Wade was overturned, but there are states that still provide more protection for access to abortion. One of those states is Oregon which is deemed the “Most Protective” state, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Oregon offers abortion without any restrictions based on the gestational age, which is not the same for certain states such as Idaho, Arizona and Utah. In states such as Connecticut, the cutoff for obtaining an abortion is the gestational age of 24 to 26 weeks where there is fetal viability. This means that the fetus can live on its own without help from the womb.
The U.S Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing states to come up with their own laws has created a firestorm of opinions. In interviews with Connecticut teens and young adults, attitudes vary greatly on what happened and what needs to be done. Queen, a 20-year-old who goes to the University of Connecticut, believes in personal choice. “I think women should have the right to have abortions cause it’s our body,’’ she said. “Who’s the government to tell me what to do with my body?
Certified nurse-midwife Jennifer Love remembers a scene from a training rotation she did many years ago in Cartagena, Colombia, where abortion was illegal at the time. If women came in with complications after a miscarriage or a self-induced abortion, they had to wear a marked shirt and sit in a special area of the obstetric emergency department, where Love worked. “The trauma and the stigma,” she said, “I never thought that we would be moving to where our patients would experience that same sense of fear and shame. It’s terrible. It just breaks my heart.
While the American theocracy tightens its stranglehold on the wombs of women in Georgia, Alabama, Missouri and elsewhere, how safe are the women of Connecticut, which has some of the country’s least restrictive abortion laws? As always, your safety may depend on your income. Women with means will always be able to get abortions, whether that means spending money to travel where they are available, and finding (and paying) a doctor willing to perform the operation. But women who live in poverty are always vulnerable to the vagaries of politics, said Sarah Croucher, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut executive director. Connecticut is good for women, but women who are poor may have some significant challenges if abortion is restricted nationally.
Bit by bit, regulation by regulation, the Trump administration – followed by a notable list of states — has been shrinking women’s access to birth control and abortion services. From packing the courts with anti-choice judges to repeated (failed) attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, the White House has done its best to push reproductive freedom off the table. So, when a Connecticut hospital and two neighborhood health centers announced plans to collaborate and become the New Haven Primary Care Consortium, the conversation quickly turned to women’s reproductive health—as it should. Yale New Haven Hospital and two local federally qualified health centers proposed to merge services recently, with the clinics that serve adults, women’s reproductive needs and children moving to 150 Sargent Drive (Long Wharf). This is a big deal for the state’s health care landscape.
If you are an American woman, be afraid of the Trump administration’s latest attempts to repeal Obamacare. If you are an American woman living in poverty, be very afraid. Connecticut has taken note. During the legislative session that just ended, the Connecticut Senate unanimously voted to protect 21 health benefits (such as contraceptives and mammograms) that Trumpcare would obliterate. Sadly, that bill died in the House.
Now is the time to repeal a 40-year-old law that perpetuates inequality among women. The Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in certain circumstances, is unfair. The amendment targets women who rely on Medicaid for their health care coverage. According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, roughly two out of three adult women enrolled in Medicaid are between the ages of 19 and 44—the reproductive years. Abortions can run upward of $1,000, which places the (legal) procedure out of reach for most women living in poverty.
The Affordable Care Act is providing women with an impressive array of reproductive health care options – except where it doesn’t. Whether a woman is benefitting from the ACA depends very much on her address, and the rather complicated workings of state exchanges. But with some caveats, for Connecticut women, the law is working. We should take a moment to think about that. Connecticut women are in the unusual position of having an important political promise met.