Lawmakers propose 'Safe Harbor Fund' for out-of-state abortion patients
A new “Safe Harbor Fund” would help out-of-state abortion patients travel to Connecticut under a new proposal unveiled by Democratic lawmakers Wednesday.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last summer, dozens of states have banned abortion – forcing some patients to travel thousands of miles.
"We all know a right means nothing if everyone can't access it,” said state Rep. Matt Blumenthal (D-Stamford), co-chair of the General Assembly’s Reproductive Rights Caucus.
New state Treasurer Erick Russell said the fund could help pay for travel and abortion care.
"We know who is going to be most impacted by these bans are women of color. It's going to be members of the LGBTQ community. It's going to be individuals living in poverty,” he said. "Additionally, I have been in touch with other treasurers around the country, with the idea of really building out a similar structure in other states."
State lawmakers are already battling over how much it would cost.
"I generally have concerns ... of us creating policies that are paying for people outside of the state of Connecticut to receive our services, when they're not paying taxes in the state of Connecticut,” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the GOP leader in the Connecticut House of Representatives.
But top Democrats estimate the fund’s budget impact would be nominal.
"You're often hurting the poorest of people, so if Connecticut can provide a couple hundred thousand dollars, or a line item, to help those individuals, I'm all for it,” said House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford).
Private help is also available for abortion patients. The REACH Fund of Connecticut was launched last June.
In addition to a “Safe Harbor Fund,” pro-choice groups want more funding to train abortion providers. A shortage has led to two week-plus wait times, according to Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.
Other bills this year would let pharmacists prescribe birth control and allow vending machines to dispense contraception. Caucus members are also looking for added data privacy protections for patients and higher reimbursements for providers.
Meantime, abortion opponents are planning to fight back. They plan to push for a parental notification law. Public opinion may be on their side. A May 2022 Quinnipiac Poll found 70% of Connecticut residents support parental notification – including 59% of Democrats.
"We require parents to sign off on ear piercing and tattoos, but we don't do it for abortion,” said Candelora. “And so, I do think we should have that conversation."
Both parties said the chances of a parental notification bill passing are slim, but Republicans might be able to force a vote by amending another bill.