Connecticut Governor Signs First Bill Granting Right to Abortion
Connecticut on Monday became the first state to give women the legal right to abortion in a law intended to stand even if the Supreme Court reverses its 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
The 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision said states cannot ban abortions, but if the ruling were struck down, states would then be able to make abortion illegal.
Without ceremony, Democratic Gov. William A. O’Neill, a Roman Catholic who personally opposes abortion, signed the bill into law Monday afternoon. It takes effect Oct. 1.
The bill cleared the state Senate on Friday by a vote of 32 to 3, and the House the week before, 136 to 12. It repeals the state’s unenforced criminal anti-abortion statutes, requires women under 16 to be counseled before getting an abortion and encourages them to tell their parents.
In a variation on the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade ruling, the new law allows abortions late in pregnancy, when the fetus is capable of living outside the womb, only when the life or health of the mother is in danger.
“I believe this measure strikes a balance between a person’s right to privacy and state interests,” the governor said in a news release.
“It recognizes a right to choice by women. The law also recognizes the state has an interest in fetus viability and properly recognizes that minors should be counseled before making the very difficult decision to abort a pregnancy,” O’Neill said.
Connecticut’s anti-abortion laws were rendered unenforceable by Roe vs. Wade. They carried penalties of up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine for anyone performing an abortion, and two years in prison and a $500 fine for women getting abortions, except to protect the life of the mother.
State Rep. Nancy Wyman, one of several Democrats who crafted the bill, said O’Neill, with his personal opposition to abortion, made a difficult decision.
“I know that it’s not truly with his conscience,” Wyman said. “He’s doing something that is good for the women of Connecticut.”
Kate Michelman of the National Abortion Rights League said she could “count on one hand” the number of other states where similar legislation could pass.
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