Debicella’s record does not back up his pro-choice claims

Greenwich-Voices-GoldrickFour decades after the Supreme Court affirmed the right to privacy by individuals in matters of contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut, reproductive rights are under attack by the same Supreme Court.

Last week, five male Supreme Court justices nominated by Republican presidents severely restricted women’s reproductive rights by ruling in the Hobby Lobby case that employers can deny women employees access to contraception in their health insurance policies if those employers claim a religious objection.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes expressed outrage at the Hobby Lobby decision by saying, “It threatens women’s access to essential health care and marks a terrible step backward for women’s rights. Employers’ personal views should play absolutely no role in determining whether a woman can get access to vital family planning services. A woman’s health decisions should be up to her and her doctor, not her boss.”

By contrast, Dan Debicella, who is Himes’ Republican challenger in November, put out no statement on the decision. In a radio interview on he claimed that he disagreed with the decision. While stating that all American women should have access to contraception, Debicella suggested that contraception should not be part of national health insurance. “The way you fix that is by any woman being able to buy contraception over-the-counter,” he said during the interview. “And if you make it that way then it’s up to the woman.”

In other words, contraception is up to a woman’s budget, with poor women being forced to do without and more expensive forms of birth control being placed outside the realm of many family budgets. Once again, Debicella displays a stunning ignorance of the importance of contraception to women’s health. Further, he appears not to understand that many women do not have access to many effective contraceptive means due to cost.

But it isn’t the first time he has displayed extreme views.

Debicella claims to be “pro-choice” but in 2008, on the basis of his responses to its questionnaire, the anti-abortion Family Institute of Connecticut endorsed Debicella for re-election to the state Senate. In 2007, Debicella was one of just three state senators to vote against SB 1343, The Compassionate Care for Victims of Sexual Assault Act, which required all Connecticut hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

The bill represented a compromise with the Catholic Church that allowed Catholic-owned hospitals to bring in outside individuals to provide emergency contraception and was similar to legislation adopted by New York and New Jersey. But, despite the archdiocese’s approval of the legislation, Debicella stated, “…I do not believe that the Catholic Church should be forced to give out emergency contraception in violation of their beliefs.”

Debicella defended his vote in an interview with the Hartford Courant’s Carolyn Lumsden in 2010. When Lumsden asserted he had sided with the Catholic Church over a woman’s right to avoid becoming pregnant by her rapist, Debicella retorted, “Women have the right to get emergency contraception at Stop & Shop, through any number of means…”

His vote against that bill was a central issue during his re-election campaign against Janice Anderson in 2008. At a press conference, Assistant Majority Whip Patricia Widlitz stated, “For Dan Debicella to think it’s not important enough for (a rape victim) to get instant care is an outrage.”

State Rep. Deborah Henirich, herself a victim of rape when she was in college, stated, “For a hospital to then tell (the rape victim) that she has to go somewhere else is just short of criminal… Mr. Debicella voted to deny rape victims emergency contraception. It is plain and simple. There is no way to misunderstand this vote.”

Jillian Gilchrist, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, condemned what she called Debicella’s “flippant attitude toward Connecticut’s victims of sexual assault.”

Endorsing Himes over Debicella in 2010, Gilchrist put it succinctly, “If (Dan Debicella’s) going to go against women in Connecticut, he’s going to do the same in D.C.”



Sean Goldrick is a Democratic member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, though the opinions expressed in this column are his own. He may be reached at [email protected]

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