CT Must Remain a Leader in Reproductive Rights

By Gina Atanasoff
Without question, the great state of Connecticut has been a leader in reproductive rights for years. Of course, all citizens deserve equal opportunity, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. … But we also can’t forget about regaining choice over our own bodies. We the American public expect our government to prioritize and respond to specific needs in regards to our safety, health, and overall equal treatment; unfortunately, we are still fighting against oppressive attacks on our reproductive rights to this day.
 
According to the Connecticut General Assembly website, which is easily accessible and open to the public, there are two specific bills being introduced to the Public Health Committee: An Act Concerning Parental Notification of Abortions (SB00324), and An Act Increasing the Age for Which the Provision of Certain Information and Counseling is Required Prior to an Abortion to Less Than Eighteen Years of Age (SB00315).
 
It can be argued that these bills are impeding on the rights and accessibility of teens across the state, and that they don’t represent what Connecticut stands for. For instance, organizations such as Planned Parenthood offer several services to women across the country, which are not limited to abortions, but also provide cancer screenings, pap smears, mammograms, STD/HIV testing, and according to their website, it is the largest provider of sex education.
 
We cannot afford to erode the progress upon which we have made in regards to our reproductive rights, and these bills are a threat to young girls who need to take measures in regards to unwanted pregnancy. This type of legislation that would require pregnant teens to obtain the consent of their parents before seeking abortions can have the potential to radically limit their choices.
 
And what may be surprising to many who are pro-life or conservative opponents: only three percent of all Planned Parenthood health services are abortion services.
 
Estelle Griswold in front of the old New Haven Planned Parenthood building.

Connecticut has shown a history of fighting for the right to choose and is a leader on the forefront for reproductive rights. For instance, these bills are unlike the progress we made in 1965 when the Supreme Court ruled on Griswold v. Connecticut that a state’s ban on contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. Estelle Griswold was prepared to be arrested in 1961 when she opened a new Planned Parenthood clinic in New Haven. As she and Dr. C. Lee Buxton, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine were arrested after counseling patients on reproduction options and distributed contraceptives, they faced criminal charges.

 
The Comstock Law was also implemented in 1873, making it illegal to sell, distribute, or obtain materials that promoted contraception or abortion. And while this federal law was taking place, Connecticut passed its own state law to lead the contraceptive movement farther than any other state, when finally, attorney Catherine Roraback challenged state authority. She brought the debate to a federal level, where the Supreme Court ruled in her favor in the Griswold v. Connecticut case.
 
Ultimately, where there has been overreach by the government in regards to the use of birth control, or any other reproductive right, Connecticut has pushed forward. It’s evident that these new bills as of 2017 do not uphold our reputation as such, and it’s important to maintain the integrity demonstrated over the years in the fight for women’s right to choose.
 
There appears to be a strange irony in these new times of women’s rights. While we have always been a leader in the reproductive fight, our legislature is currently working to implement regression in our history.
 
State legislators and constituencies should take a deeper look at our history and also the facts about Planned Parenthood or the critical healthcare providers that women depend on for cancer screenings or HIV testing. We must firmly remain on that path and refrain from backtracking.  
 
So, to our dear representatives and fellow citizens, we must ask ourselves: why would we want to revoke countless health services available to women in order eradicate abortion while abortions are only a fraction of Planned Parenthood?
 
By dismantling the safe and protected healthcare system that currently exists for women, we should not be mistaken: abortions will not come to an end by abolishing Planned Parenthood and putting restrictions on young women’s rights to choose.
 
In fact, it’s quite the opposite: we will be making abortions less safe, and it can become even deadly for women who are desperate enough to take control of their own lives. In addition, forcing women to have unwanted pregnancies, even in spite of rape or incestual cases, will promote the dependence on welfare if they are unable to provide for a child and inhibit the conditions of a child’s upbringing.
 
Without question, we want to make sure we are pro-the quality of a child’s and mother’s life, not simply and blindly force a pro-birth policy.
Of course, we are very fortunate on the federal level that leaders are taking such maximal strides towards women’s rights. However, if we want to see change on a state level, we must encourage our legislators and constituencies to glance at the history of Connecticut’s leadership in this march forward for equality, while also ensuring that our citizens are safe and healthy.
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Gina is a member of Connecticut NOW and a senior political science and writing and rhetoric double major at the University of Rhode Island. Her interests involve women’s rights, animal welfare, immigration reform, environmental issues and foreign policy.
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