By Glori Norwitt, J.D.
This essay was published the day before the Supreme Court issued its final ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Abortion is legal – for now — in the United States, thanks to Roe v. Wade. The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision was based on the privacy rights established in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. In the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, however, the U.S. Supreme court appears to be ready to overrule Roe v. Wade, thus eliminating the constitutional right to safe, legal abortion.
If overturned, abortion would still be legal in Connecticut. But our state laws could change in the future, depending on who is elected. And a number of other states are passing increasingly restrictive and extreme abortion bans.
In 2022 alone, antiabortion politicians have introduced over 500 abortion restrictions in 42 states such as 24 hour waiting periods, parental consent or notification or involvement requirements, insurance restrictions, prohibitions on state Medicaid funding, and trigger bans. Texas law now allows politicians, neighbors and even strangers to sue anyone who helps a person access an abortion in Texas after six weeks. According to the Washington Post, “[l]eading antiabortion groups and their allies in Congress have been meeting behind the scenes to plan a national strategy that would kick in if the Supreme Court rolls back abortion rights this summer…including a push for a strict nationwide ban on the procedure if Republicans retake power in Washington.” (May 3, 2022)
Connecticut is leading the fight for reproductive freedom. In May, Governor Ned Lamont signed the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act, which is the most significant abortion rights legislation in a generation. The act expands access to abortion care by updating state laws and regulations to allow advanced practice clinicians (nurse-midwives, advanced practice registered nurses, and physician assistants) to provide aspiration abortion to their patients. Also, the Act shields state health care providers, and anyone forced to travel to Connecticut to receive legal abortion care, from targeted attacks and lawsuits from out-of-state politicians.
There is great concern that the expected Dobbs opinion could lead to additional restraints. In the draft Dobbs opinion, the Supreme Court focused on whether there was a history of protecting the right to abortion in the US, and refused to frame the right more broadly as a right of personal autonomy and of control over one’s own body. In future cases, if the Supreme Court applied the same question (i.e., is there a history of protecting the right of same-sex couples to marry, or the right of same-sex couples to be intimate), the conservative majority of the court could easily answer these questions “no.”
So far in 2022, over 300 anti-sex education, anti-trans and/or anti-LGBTQ bills have been proposed in state legislatures; over the past three years over 20 new anti-trans bills have become law. These laws restrict access to health care, ban resources regarding sexual transmitted infections, bar trans people from restrooms, and prevent any discussion of the existence of LGB or trans people in schools. In February, Texas Governor Greg Abbott told state health agencies that medical treatments provided to transgender adolescents (such as puberty-suppressing drugs and hormones to transgender teenagers — widely considered to be the standard of care in medicine) should be classified as “child abuse” under state law.
We must all carefully consider who we elect and what that will mean for our future rights.
Banning abortion does not end the need for access. Politicians should not control our bodies or our lives. Bans off our bodies. My Body, My Choice.
Glori Norwitt serves on the Board of The Center for Empowerment and Education (formerly The Women’s Center) and Connecticut Against Gun Violence, and on Ridgefield’s Economic and Community Development Commission. Any opinions expressed are solely her own.
Photo caption: Hundreds gathered before Wilton, CT’s, Town Hall on May 15, 2022, at a rally to protest the anticipated Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Many held signs like this one reading, “I will not go back to the 1950s quietly.”