An animated Attorney General William Tong said the draft opinion, if finalized to repeal Roe v. Wade, "will split this country in two." MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

Connecticut’s attorney general announced Wednesday that two attorneys will serve as special counsels for reproductive rights, taking on tasks such as representing the state in these cases and developing policy agendas related to reproductive rights.

Assistant Attorneys General Alma Nunley and Emily Gait will serve in the new positions within Attorney General William Tong’s office, with the roles funded in the existing budget.

The job description for the special counsel includes identifying opportunities for reproductive rights litigation, developing a long-term litigation strategy and researching and drafting policy advocacy materials, among other tasks.

Tong’s announcement comes as access to abortion is under attack nationwide. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case gave state governments the power to decide whether abortion will be allowed.

The one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision is Saturday.

The reversal of Roe v. Wade, the previous Supreme Court opinion that had legalized abortion nationally, has triggered a wave of state laws limiting access to or outright banning abortion. Connecticut opted to become a “safe harbor” state for abortion access, meaning that pregnant people who live in states that restrict abortions can get the procedure done in Connecticut.

The legislature also strengthened the state’s existing abortion laws, marking the first changes since they were passed in 1990. 

Public officials, including Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, have repeatedly said they’re committed to ensuring Connecticut maintains access to abortions.

Nunley and Gait have experience in state and federal courts, according to a press release sent Wednesday morning.

Tong announced the creation of the special counsel roles at a press conference last year.

“The fall of Roe was just the beginning,” Tong said in a press release. “Over the past year, we have witnessed a tsunami of extremist legislation and litigation aimed at eroding reproductive freedom and criminalizing the healthcare choices and actions of women, patients, and providers. 

“Abortion is safe, legal, and accessible in Connecticut, and we are fighting on every front to keep it that way.”

He added that the new roles reflect “the importance of this work and the severe threats we see ahead.”

Connecticut is one of several states that have signed onto amicus briefs in courts around the country trying to preserve access to abortion, birth control and medication abortion, among other topics related to reproductive health care.

Connecticut and New York have also created a legal hotline with free legal guidance and resources about legal rights to abortion. The hotline number is 212-899-5567.

And the state legislature approved a law this session that protects medical providers who face disciplinary action in other states for performing abortions. Those providers couldn’t be denied licenses, have their licenses revoked, or be denied privileges in Connecticut under the legislation.

Nunley joined the Special Litigation Section in the attorney general’s office in 2018. She has degrees from the University of Memphis and the Quinnipiac University School of Law. She’s clerked for Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers and Justice Andrew J. McDonald of the state’s supreme court.

Gait joined the Special Litigation Section in 2021. She has a degree from the University of Connecticut’s School of Law. She clerked for Justice Gregory T. D’Auria of the Connecticut Supreme Court and Judge Michael P. Shea of the Federal District Court for the District of Connecticut.

Ginny is CT Mirror's children's issues and housing reporter and a Report for America corps member. She covers a variety of topics ranging from child welfare to affordable housing and zoning. Ginny grew up in Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas' Lemke School of Journalism in 2017. She began her career at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette where she covered housing, homelessness, and juvenile justice on the investigations team. Along the way Ginny was awarded a 2019 Data Fellowship through the Annenberg Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California. She moved to Connecticut in 2021.