A woman at a lectern on the steps of the CT state capitol with several people behind her holding signs.
Liz Gustafson, leader of Pro-Choice Connecticut, will serve as state director for Reproductive Equity Now, a regional advocacy group. Erica E. Phillips / CT Mirror

Abortion rights advocates in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are joining forces to form what they describe as the nation’s “first regional model” for reproductive health care advocacy in the United States.

On Tuesday, Massachusetts-based Reproductive Equity Now announced an expansion of its efforts into New Hampshire, as well as the acquisition of Pro-Choice Connecticut, a nearly 50-year-old advocacy group that has pushed for sexual health access and new legislation that shields abortion providers and patients in the state.

Rebecca Hart Holder, Reproductive Equity Now’s president, said the group’s new regional approach comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last June to overturn Roe v. Wade — a decision that ended nationwide rights to abortion, leaving each state to define its own parameters for reproductive health care. (Twenty-one states have enacted bans or significant restrictions on abortion since then.)

“By creating a regional powerhouse for reproductive health care advocacy, we can build unstoppable political and organizing power across the country,” Hart Holder said at a press conference on the steps of the Connecticut state Capitol Tuesday. “We can make sure that our states are prepared for the continued influx of patients from other regions of the country.”

Liz Gustafson, the leader of Pro-Choice Connecticut who will now serve as state director for Reproductive Equity Now, added, “We want New England to be a place where people feel safe, where they feel protected accessing compassionate abortion care — not only for people who call Connecticut home but for those traveling to our region in a post-Roe America.”

Connecticut abortion providers have seen a marked increase in patients traveling from other states to seek care here. Hart Holder said, “The numbers are only going to increase” throughout New England.

“There’s a reason why women are coming to Connecticut in increased numbers, and that is because we have been a refuge, we’ve been at the tip of the spear, we have been leading the fight nationwide,” U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said at the press conference Tuesday. 

Blumenthal has sponsored reproductive rights legislation in Congress — including the Women’s Health Protection Act, the Right to Contraception Act and the Right to Travel for Health Care Act — but the bills face steep political hurdles. He said the new regional group will “inspire and provide impetus for advocates across the country.”

“We truly believe that this regional model, starting here in New England, is the future for abortion advocacy nationwide,” Gustafson said.

Erica covers economic development for CT Mirror. Before moving to Connecticut to join the staff she worked in Los Angeles for public radio’s Marketplace and, before that, for the Wall Street Journal's L.A. bureau. She grew up in Minneapolis, MN, graduated from Haverford College and earned a master’s in journalism from the University of Southern California.