Why Connecticut would not be affected by Supreme Court abortion ruling

Photo of Peter Yankowski
The U.S. Supreme Court building as seen on Sunday, July 11, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Supreme Court building as seen on Sunday, July 11, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Daniel Slim / Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court could soon decide to overturn its decision granting the right to an abortion at the federal level, or allow states to establish new limitations, after hearing arguments on a Mississippi law restricting the procedure.

If that happens, however, Connecticut residents will likely see little impact from the decision. That’s because a state statute passed more than 30 years ago that guarantees the right to an abortion enshrined in the Roe v. Wade decision.

But a coalition of advocates for the right to choose an abortion say Connecticut still needs to do more to reduce the barriers to sexual and reproductive health care.

“Abortion access is under attack in America like never before,” Gretchen Raffa, senior director of public policy, organizing, and advocacy for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said in a statement this week. “While Roe must be protected, it has never been enough on its own to guarantee access for millions of people across the country. Although Connecticut has codified the right to abortion in state law, we know that residents still can’t access the abortion care they need.”

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in the Mississippi law, which prohibits abortion after 15 weeks. The law goes against the court’s precedent, which allows abortion up to fetal viability. The court is not expected to issue a ruling in the case for several months.

The text of the Connecticut law states “the decision to terminate a pregnancy prior to the viability of the fetus shall be solely that of the pregnant woman in consultation with her physician.”

The Connecticut law passed in 1990, not long before the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the right to an abortion in a landmark 1992 case. That case, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, also added a new standard that states could not impose an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion.

State legislators who worked to pass the bill at the time said they intended to enshrine the rights guaranteed by Roe into Connecticut law. The move represented something of an historical about-face for the state, which had outlawed abortion for more than a 150 years prior to legalizing the procedure in the early 1970s.

The state also outlawed contraception up until 1965, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the law in Griswold vs. Connecticut. The case revolved around directors of a Planned Parenthood center in New Haven who provided married couples with contraceptives, violating the state law in the process. They were convicted in state court, a decision that was upheld in appellate and the state’s Supreme Court, before being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

That decision set a crucial precedent for the Supreme Court in in Roe, establishing the right to privacy implied — though not explicitly stated — in the Bill of Rights.

Advocates for the right to choose an abortion reacted this week to the Supreme Court hearing arguments in the Mississippi law, claiming that by allowing the law to stand would undo 50 years of precedent. The group, Connecticut Coalition for Choice, includes more than a dozen organizations advocating for the right to an abortion. The group said the state also needs to do more to ensure access to health care to all people — including those who are undocumented.

“This fight is not only about legality, it is about our dignity and humanity free from shame and stigma,” Liz Gustafson, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, said in a statement. “We envision a world where abortion isn’t just legal — but is truly accessible, affordable, and supported in our communities.”

If the Supreme Court overrules Roe in its decision in the case, as many as 21 states could ban or limit access to abortion, according to reporting by NPR. In contrast to Connecticut, a dozen states have so-called “trigger laws” on the books that would immediately ban abortion if Roe is struck down.