State Rep. Robyn Porter speaks at a press conference about furthering women's health services. Clarice Silber /
State Rep. Robyn Porter speaks at a press conference about furthering women’s health services. Clarice Silber /
State Rep. Robyn Porter speaks at a press conference about furthering women’s health services. Clarice Silber /

As Connecticut legislators gear up for the start of the 2018 session, female lawmakers on Monday outlined plans to introduce several bills targeted at protecting women’s health services.

The five state legislators were joined by local advocates as they made their announcement on the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide. They stressed a need to address health disparities among women and protect benefits currently provided under the Affordable Care Act.

State Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire; Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven; Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield; Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford; and Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, attended the press conference. They said state Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, is also supporting the measures.

Flexer said legislators also will tackle preventative health care measures and a “truth-in-advertising standard” to ensure women don’t get deceptive advice when accessing services at specific clinics.

“We’re going to make sure that in Connecticut women will be able to maintain the health care benefits that they deserve, regardless of what the failed leadership in Washington, D.C., decides to do,” Flexer said.

The legislators plan to introduce a bill that will ensure state health insurance plans include benefits like outpatient care, prenatal care, ongoing care for children, prescription medicines, lab tests, and mental health and substance abuse disorder services among others.

That measure will be coupled with another aimed at protecting women’s access to contraception and other preventative health services. The proposed legislation would include 12-month prescription coverage for contraception and emergency contraception with no co-pay.

Porter called the lack of options available to women of color disheartening and said there needs to be an increase in sex education and contraceptive accessibility.

“And in doing that not only do we empower black women and girls with the authority to choose what happens over their bodies and to choose when they decide to have kids and … start families, we also empower them to bring themselves out of poverty,” Porter said.

An additional bill will focus on what the legislators called “crisis pregnancy centers,” which they said attempt to pose as family planning clinics while providing medically inaccurate, anti-choice information.

The lawmakers also said they were committed to establishing more parity in the legislature by getting more women on the ballot.

“I think I can safely say every single one of us is actively engaged in getting more women on the ballot for the legislature this year — so that next year when we’re here, we’re going to have four times as many women standing at this press conference,” Flexer said.

Clarice Silber was a General Assignment Reporter at CT Mirror. She formerly worked for The Associated Press in Phoenix as a legislative and general assignment reporter. In 2016, she conducted extensive interviews and research in Portuguese and Spanish for the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team at McClatchy, which was the only U.S. newspaper to gain initial access to the Panama Papers. She is a Rio de Janeiro native and graduated from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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