Connecticut AG creates special counsel for abortion rights

October 11, 2022 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s Democratic state attorney general announced plans Tuesday to appoint a new special counsel for reproductive rights, someone he said would be part of a “firewall” to protect the state’s abortion rights laws.

Attorney General William Tong said the special counsel, part of his office’s new civil rights division, will represent the state’s interests in “any court” by taking a leadership role in multi-state amicus briefs filed in abortion cases and be the first to legally challenge efforts to pass a national abortion ban. Tong said he expects there will eventually be more staff for the yet-to-be hired special counsel.

“The fall of Roe was not the end. It was just the beginning, the beginning of an assault, an attack on women and patients and doctors and nurses and health care providers, an attack on Connecticut families and just the beginning of our strong defense and building a firewall around women and patients and doctors and nurses and health care providers here in Connecticut,” said Tong, surrounded by Democratic legislators and abortion rights advocates, during a news conference.

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Tong also announced Connecticut will participate in New York’s pro bono Legal Assistance Abortion Hotline. He said a volunteer network of lawyers from Connecticut has agreed to provide legal assistance and representation to patients and providers who face out-of-state lawsuits and other legal actions.

That free legal help may also be provided to patients who travel to Connecticut from states where abortion is restricted. Zari Watkins, the chief operating officer for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said at least 75 women from outside New England, New York and New Jersey have so far come to the state for abortion services since September 2021, when the Texas abortion ban took effect.

Chris Healy, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, said state public policy should “support young women at a critical moment in their lives” and called Tong’s announcement “political pandering.”

House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, accused state Democrats of trying to “weaponize” women’s reproductive health during an election year by pushing a “false narrative that elected Republicans and candidates here are threatening a health care choice that’s enshrined in Connecticut law.”