Black and Latina Legislators Push Back on Abortion Amendment, Call for More Resources for Women

Protestors at the March for Life rally at the state Capitol on March 18, 2024 (CT Examiner).


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HARTFORD — Black and Latina legislators opposed a proposed amendment to the State Constitution guaranteeing the right to an abortion, arguing the provision would harm their communities. They instead asked for additional resources for mothers and children. 

At a forum on Wednesday organized by the four state representatives, State Rep. Treneé McGee, D-West Haven, criticized news stories about Black women lacking access to abortion. She said those articles were written by White women who failed to interview people of color. 

“The specific drive was if the abortion industry is not funded in the way it should be — although it receives billions of donations annually — that Black and Latin women will suffer, when we know that is actually not the truth,” McGee said. 

McGee said about 75 percent of women who seek abortions in Connecticut are on Medicaid, and that the women who seek abortions are disproportionately women of color. 

The proposed resolution would add language to the State Constitution making it illegal to discriminate “based on pregnancy, including preventing, initiating, continuing or terminating a pregnancy; sexual orientation; gender identity and expression; and related health care.” 

State Reps. Trenee McGee, Robyn Porter, Minnie Gonzalez and Anabel Figueroa speak against a proposal guaranteeing the right to an abortion in the state constitution on March 18, 2024.

Similar resolutions have been passed in Ohio, California and Michigan. Other states, like Minnesota, Illinois, Alaska and Kansas, already recognize the right to abortion as enshrined in their state constitutions. 

The resolution received a public hearing on Monday, where it was met with opposition from residents, Catholic groups and the Connecticut Republican Assembly. 

Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, spoke in favor of the resolution, saying that lack of access to reproductive health care disproportionately impacted communities of color. 

“Access to abortion and contraception is not just about its legality; but it is also about humanity, dignity, and freedom. As the U.S. Supreme Court abandoned nearly fifty years of precedent on reproductive rights, a lack of access to reproductive health services, including abortion care, is already threatening people’s lives and futures across the country. People across the country have been forced to remain pregnant against their will, endangering their mental and physical health, their lives and futures, and their family’s lives and futures,” Jess Zaccagnino, policy counsel for the ACLU, said in written testimony

Gretchen Raffa, vice president of public policy, advocacy and organizing for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, urged the legislature to increase Medicaid payments and expand HUSKY access and paid sick leave. The organization praised a law passed in 2022 that gives legal protection to out-of-state medical professionals and patients seeking an abortion. 

“Despite the progress we have made in Connecticut over the past few years, many people in our state still face barriers to accessing abortion care, gender-affirming care, and other essential reproductive health care due to systemic barriers such as racism, economic inequality, immigration status, transphobia, the rising costs of health care, and abortion stigma,” the testimony read. 

Connecticut law currently allows abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy and does not require parental consent for minors who seek an abortion. 

At the forum, State Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, spoke about the need to address disparities in maternal care, particularly for Black women. 

“This is a conversation about the fundamental value of human life, about the right of every woman and birthing parent to access quality care and support through their pregnancy and childbirth journey. It is about recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of every mother and birthing parent regardless of race or ethnicity,” Porter said. 

State Rep. Anabel Figueroa, D-Stamford, said the main reason Latina women sought abortions was a lack of education or medical benefits. 

“As a Latina, I can tell you that Latinos don’t really look for abortions. Once a baby is conceived, we look forward to bringing the baby to our lives and providing it with love. We welcome them into our families as we continue to grow,” she said. 

Figueroa said elected officials needed to focus more on minimizing unwanted pregnancies by ensuring all women had health insurance, medical care, greater access to contraception and supporting programs that counter domestic violence and sexual abuse. 

McGee argued that suggesting abortion access is the primary service young women need is deceptive. She noted that millennials are not “irresponsible bubbleheads,” with many focusing on their education or pursuing homeownership.

“If you care about disparity, cancel my student loans. Give me money to start my business,”she said. 

Ana Montalvo, the head of ABC Women’s Center, a pregnancy center that provides pregnancy tests and material support to expectant and new mothers up to two years after birth, said she knew many people who regretted having abortions, but no one who regretted giving birth to their child. Like McGee, she underscored that women of color made up a disproportionate number of abortions. 

“There are abortion clinics in the ghetto. They’re easy to find. To tell me that women of color need more abortions, considering that we make up more abortions, although we make up less of the population — the numbers just do not add up,” Montalvo said. “But what about the help that they need?  That’s what we need in the ghetto. Actual help, actual choices that they can make so that they don’t feel like the abortion is the only option that they have.”

The hearing also attracted 1,700 protestors, who gathered on the green outside the state Capitol for the March for Life. McGee and Montalvo also spoke at the march.

Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, urged marchers to contact their legislators and advocate against the resolution, calling it “an amendment to put late-term abortion right into the state constitution.” 

“Abortion is already legal in Connecticut. The only thing this would do is make it even easier than it already is to have late-term abortion. This is abortion right up to birth. Do we want that in Connecticut?” he asked, to a chorus of “No!” from the crowd. 

Wolfgang also spoke against another proposed bill, which would mandate that Catholic-run hospitals not penalize their employees for giving patients information and counseling about reproductive services and gender-based care. 

“We want a Connecticut where every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. That is our ultimate goal. Whether or not it happens in our lifetime, when it happens someday it will happen because all of you are here right now,” he said. 

Several marchers said they didn’t know much about the proposed resolution, but spoke in favor of what they described as protecting life and helping the unborn. 

“It’s God’s will that we protect life, the entirety of life, from birth to natural death,” said Sharon Valerio, a parishioner at St. Joseph Church in Bristol. “I think these types of things are important to bring that message to everyone, to try and unite all of us. We’re here to follow Jesus, follow His word.” 

Emilia Otte

Emilia Otte covers health and education for the Connecticut Examiner. In 2022 Otte was awarded "Rookie of the Year," by the New England Newspaper & Press Association.