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Connecticut governor signs law protecting abortion seekers and providers from out-of-state lawsuits

House Bill 5414, which was sponsored by state Democratic lawmakers and cleared the state Senate and House in recent weeks, enables a person or corporation who “has had a judgment entered” against them in another state for receiving, providing or helping a person obtain legal abortion services in Connecticut to sue for damages. The law is set to take effect on July 1.
Supporters of the law say it will protect women from other states who travel to Connecticut to receive abortions, as well as the physicians who provide them. The measure was prompted by a controversial Texas law that allows private citizens to take civil action to enforce its ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.

“I am very appreciative to the majority of lawmakers in Connecticut who had the foresight to draft this legislation at a time when the right to a safe and legal abortion in America is in jeopardy,” Lamont said in a statement. “I am proud to stand up for access to reproductive health care and reproductive freedom. As long as I am governor of this great state, we’ll never waiver on the right to choose, and the belief that medical decisions should be made between a patient and their doctor.”

The new law comes against the backdrop of rising concern from abortion rights activists after a draft majority opinion published by Politico on Monday suggested the Supreme Court’s majority could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The opinion is not final, and it is possible the vote count will change before a formal opinion is later rolled out, likely by the end of June.

But already, lawmakers in both red and blue states are beginning to draw new battle lines in expectation of a patchwork system in which a federal constitutional right to an abortion is no longer protected nationwide.

“I think you’ve heard a lot about what’s coming out of the Supreme Court and a preliminary ruling that looks like they may be on the edge of ending a woman’s right to choose,” Lamont said Thursday. “That’s not going to happen in the state of Connecticut.”

Beyond its main provision, the new measure will also block state agencies from assisting in interstate investigations or prosecutions that would hold someone criminally or civilly liable for providing, seeking, receiving or asking about abortion services legal in Connecticut. It will bar court officers from issuing subpoenas related to legal abortion services in the state.

Additionally, the law will limit the governor’s extradition authority, meaning the governor will not be able to extradite a person who performed an abortion in Connecticut that’s considered a crime in another state.

Throughout the legislative process anti-abortion groups have objected to the measure, with the Family Institute of Connecticut saying it would turn the state into a “safe harbor for unsavory out-of-state abortionists.”

But Connecticut is far from alone in its posture protecting or expanding access to abortion. As of early April, at least 11 protective measures had been enacted in seven states this legislative session, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.

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