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CT lawmakers want $3.3 million a year for abortion, family planning services

Journal Inquirer - 2/23/2024

Feb. 23—HARTFORD — Democratic lawmakers on Friday said that annual Medicaid payment rates for abortions for low-income residents need to increase by $3 million a year in the state budget that starts on July 1, because payments to providers have not been adjusted since 2008.

And the group of about 60 House and Senate members said that despite legislation to create a right to abortion in the Connecticut Constitution is heading for a public hearing, they are not pushing for the bill this year.

Citing recent attempts to take away reproductive rights throughout the United States, the group that calls itself the Reproductive Rights Caucus said during a news conference in the Legislative Office Building that they also want an extra $300,000 a year to provide more funding for family planning services.

"We want to ensure that Connecticut remains a leader in this country in protecting access to reproductive health care," said Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, stressing the continued need to protect providers, maintain access to services, and support people who want to expand their families. "At this point, in our state, we know that labor costs have increased, health insurance has risen and cyber-security costs have been on the rise. As Connecticut continues to serve individuals both here in the state and coming from out of state, we want to ensure that we provide the much-needed support and relief to our reproductive health care providers."

Other goals of the caucus include access for patients and equity for LGBTQ-plus individuals, as part of an effort to expand on reproductive freedoms in Connecticut's so-called safe harbor bill of 2022, protecting people from anti-abortion states to seek care here.

"We want to ensure that regardless of the hospital or medical institution, the health care institution will not interfere or discipline providers who provide medically accurate information, counseling, referrals or other care and guidance in the care of patients seeking essential, time sensitive life-affirming health care," said Rep. Aimee Berger-Girvalo, D-Ridgefield. "This includes abortion and gender-affirming care. Hostile policies right here in Connecticut have created an environment where health care providers are fearful or restricted."

In response, Chris Healy, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, said after the news conference that hospitals affiliated with religion should not be forced.

"They talked about compelling health care providers from performing things that they are religiously opposed to," Healy said. "There is plenty of access to health care facilities in this state. It takes two hours to go to anyplace in this state, so this issue of a lack of access is absurd. There are 29 hospitals. There is plenty of access"

"Right now taxpayers in Connecticut pay for abortions," Healy said in an interview. "I think if most people knew that they would oppose it. Having said that, there is no demonstrated need to hike this to pay abortionists more money. On the one hand they are talking about helping people have children, and on the other hand they are talking about taking innocent lives. So which is it? This caucus is more concerned with being a national leader in either abortion vacations, abortion destination, all of these extreme elements, which we in the Catholic faith reject."

Healy noted an apparent split among Democrats, who on the one hand have scheduled a public hearing for a possible amendment to the Constitution. He said that Catholics and the progressive Democrats agree on is the continued need for child care tax credits. "There's got to be a way to work on these things together with a middle ground when we're talking about providing options for young people without this extreme agenda or this fanciful nonsense that somehow people are being denied these services," he said.


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