LETTER: Fact Checking Fiorello

Submitted by Jen Barro

I read with interest Republican State Rep Kimberly Fiorello’s thoughts on the Supreme Court reversal on Roe, published recently in the Greenwich Free Press. Her comments on abortion rights during the 2020 League of Women Voters debate boiled down to suggesting her husband should have a birds and bees talk with their son, so I was hoping for something more substantive this time around. But, Fiorello got the facts wrong.

Fiorello starts by mischaracterizing a 2021 bill (SB 835) that prohibits deceptive practices by pregnancy clinics that masquerade as full-service reproductive care centers, but do not actually provide or refer clients for abortion care or emergency contraception. She claims these centers are targeted and prevented from providing “emotional and spiritual support to women and girls” when in fact they are only precluded from misleading patients.

Fiorello falsely claims that the recent abortion bill (HB 5414) “absolutely increases risks to women.” This bill allows licensed advanced practice nurses (APRNs), midwives, and physician assistants to provide first trimester medication and aspiration abortions. Fourteen other states permit this practice and it is endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Fiorello is misinformed here given there is data, including a study of 11,000 women comparing abortions performed by physicians and non-physician clinicians, that found complication rates in both groups were low and that certain trained non-physicians can safely provide this care. Increasing the pool of trained abortion providers can help decrease waiting times and better ensure abortion services are available earlier in pregnancy when procedures are less complicated.

Fiorello gives us the impression that her vote is not an outlier in saying “many” of her Democratic colleagues voted no with her on HB 5414 – the bill expanding the pool of qualified abortion providers and protecting Connecticut abortion providers against out-of-state legal action. In truth, only 14 of 97 House Democrats voted no, and notably 7 of her Republican colleagues voted yes.

Next, she deceives us with “the majority of Americans wrestle with abortion’s grave moral complexities…” The reality is a recent Reuters poll, taken before the Supreme Court decision, found “about 71% of Americans – including majorities of Democrats and Republicans – say decisions about terminating a pregnancy should be left to a woman and her doctor, rather than regulated by the government.” A Fox News Poll from last fall reported 65% opposed overturning Roe.

Her emphatic call to “work together to safeguard health for all women and girls in Connecticut” falls flat when you examine her breathtaking record of NO votes on postpartum assistance (HB 6687), doula training standards (HB 5500), breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace (HB 5158), coverage for breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility screening (SB 358), expanding student mental health services (SB 1), domestic violence education (HB 5355), screening children for sexual assault risk (HB 6399), and safeguarding against food insecurity for kids (HB 6229). She has been busy saying no for the past two years.

Fiorello concludes with the senseless assertion that abortion is not a political issue. The only mechanism we have to protect our reproductive rights is to elect state and federal candidates we trust to pass legislation to codify our rights and to confirm judges who will uphold those laws. Fiorello’s extreme rhetoric and history of no votes on vital bills reveal her to be no champion of reproductive rights – she does not deserve to be reelected and she certainly should not be allowed to mislead us on this important issue.

Jennifer Barro, MD, Greenwich Resident