This story is part of CT Mirror Explains, an ongoing effort to distill our wide-ranging reporting into a "what you need to know" format and provide practical information to our readers.
This story has been updated.
Planned Parenthood clinics in Connecticut have seen a 59% increase in out-of-state patients seeking abortions since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, according to Planned Parenthood Southern New England Vice President Gretchen Raffa.
Amid this surge in demand, long wait times, and restrictions on abortion care nationwide, Connecticut’s state legislature has enacted two sets of reproductive access laws expanding who can terminate a pregnancy, requiring public universities to publish abortion access plans, extending access to HUSKY for undocumented people seeking abortions and enacting a legal shield to protect doctors who provide abortions.
Meanwhile, reproductive rights advocates in the state continue to organize. The long-standing Pro-Choice Connecticut organization, formerly NARAL Pro-Choice CT, has transitioned into the Reproductive Equity Now Network, a regional organization that is working to expand access to care across the New England region and provide more information to people both in and out of state who are seeking care. They have recently launched an abortion clinic finder.
Here’s what to know about recent changes to Connecticut’s abortion access laws.
Allowing pharmacies to prescribe birth control, dispense abortion medication
Starting Jan. 1, people will be able to purchase birth control without first having to visit a doctor. Under this new law, pharmacists who wish to prescribe birth control will have to undergo new training.
Under this bill, a pregnant person can also pick up abortion medication, like mifepristone or misoprostol, at a pharmacy. Previously, a person could only receive the abortion medication in a clinic, medical office or hospital.
According to Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, these provisions will reduce wait times for access to care. She added that being able to purchase birth control at the pharmacy will improve access to care for people who cannot easily visit a doctor.
Plan B, morning-after pill vending machines
With the passage of the most recent abortion expansion bill, the state is also now looking into placing vending machines that have Plan B, or the morning-after pill, across Connecticut by Jan. 1.
According to Liz Gustafson, Connecticut state director for Reproductive Equity Now, vending machines were originally planned for college campuses so college students could easily access emergency contraception even if they could not get to a pharmacy.
However, she and other reproductive advocates are calling for more vending machines across the state so people other than students can also easily purchase emergency contraception.
UConn, CSCU must create abortion access plan
The University of Connecticut and the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities systems will both be required to create a plan for their students to access abortions. Originally, the state legislature debated requiring both systems to provide abortion care, but the bill now only requires both systems to compile a report on what providing full coverage would look like.
Some campuses in both of these systems do not have their own health or family planning centers which makes accessing care more difficult for students.
Currently, the UConn webpage on Sexual Health and Reproduction explains access to STI screening as well as access to Plan B, or emergency contraception, medication. The webpage does not provide information on costs or access to abortion on campus. It links to various other websites for clinics like Planned Parenthood and Hartford GYN.
UConn does cover access to Plan B for all students.
Within the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, only the four state universities have health clinics on campus. The community colleges in the system do not have on-site clinics. The CSCU health care plan does cover abortion, but most students opt to stay on their parent’s plan or sign up for HUSKY if their income qualifies.
Spokespeople for both systems said they are working to compile the information by the Jan. 1 deadline.
Advanced practice registered nurses now provide abortions
Starting in 2022, advanced-practice registered nurses, physician assistants and nurse-midwives can provide aspiration abortions. Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and Hartford GYN, the two largest abortion providers in the state, have both trained providers since the fall of 2022.
According to Raffa, Planned Parenthood has trained four advanced-practice clinicians, helping shorten wait times at clinics.
HUSKY will cover reproductive care for undocumented people
Connecticut’s Medicaid program, HUSKY, has been expanded to include prenatal care for undocumented people, and they also receive postnatal care through 12 months. HUSKY will also cover 90% of the cost of abortions.
Children born to undocumented people will also be eligible for HUSKY coverage through age 15.
Protecting doctors from out-of-state legal action
Prior to the overturning of Roe, some states, like Texas, passed laws that allowed residents in their states to sue providers in another state if they assisted a Texan in receiving an abortion. The 2022 set of legislative reforms to abortion law included a legal shield that allows for doctors sued under these provisions to countersue for triple damages.
This year’s legislative reforms further enhance these protections as more states have passed similar laws to Texas. The law also now protects doctors from states that are looking at referring abortion providers to their state medical boards for license suspensions. Connecticut will not penalize a doctor or prevent them from practicing in Connecticut if the only disciplinary action against them is providing legal and safe abortion care.
For example, if a Connecticut doctor were to provide an abortion to a resident of another state, that state could theoretically file a suspension notice with their own state’s medical board. Since most states, including Connecticut, have reciprocity agreements for suspensions or other disciplinary marks, that action would prevent the Connecticut doctor from practicing.
Additionally, if a doctor comes from another state where providing abortions is illegal and has received disciplinary actions only for providing safe abortions, then the Connecticut Medical Board will not prevent them from practicing in the state.
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that people will be able to purchase birth control over the counter starting in January. People will still need to receive a prescription for the medication, but the new law will allow a pharmacist who undergoes training to provide the prescription.