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State Treasurer Candidate Erick Russell Announces Plan To Launch The Connecticut Safe Harbor Fund And Connect Women Seeking An Abortion To The Healthcare They Choose For Themselves

July 27, 2022

Plan includes a coordinated nationwide effort to keep abortion safe, efficient, affordable and private.

(NEW HAVEN)—In response to the continued assault on the right to abortion care, Erick Russell, the Democratic Party’s Endorsed Candidate for State Treasurer, today announced his proposal to build on Connecticut’s groundbreaking Reproductive Freedom Act by establishing a fund to offer financial assistance to those who travel to Connecticut for legally protected abortion care. The plan also includes partnering with State Treasurers in pro-choice states across the country to form a nationwide coalition to make abortion travel safe, timely, efficient, affordable, and private.

“The right to make and access reproductive healthcare choices for oneself should not be determined by where you live or, for that matter, the company you work for,” said Erick Russell. “The vast majority of Americans believe that women should have the right to an abortion if they choose one. Until Congress acts to pass a national abortion rights law, it is incumbent upon all of us to do all that we can to protect abortion care, including helping restore to individuals who live in states where abortion is now illegal the ability to make essential reproductive care choices for themselves independent of their financial circumstances.”

Under Russell’s plan, Connecticut’s “Safe Harbor Fund” would connect people seeking abortion care who live in anti-abortion states with the financial support they need to travel to Connecticut for the care they need, want, and choose for themselves. Initially funded through the state’s general fund and private donations, the Safe Harbor Fund would be managed and invested by the Office of the Treasurer. Resources from the Safe Harbor Fund would go directly to abortion care providers in Connecticut already providing trusted, compassionate, and private abortion care, and would be used to provide financial support for those patients traveling to Connecticut for that abortion care. Those resources would also be available for safe lodging options while in Connecticut for care.

The plan calls for the Office of the Treasurer to partner with other State Treasurers across the country to encourage the establishment of similar funds in those states and to coordinate a nationwide coalition of pro-choice states that are willing to pay travel and lodging expenses for those traveling to their state from anti-choice states for legal and safe abortion care. The goal of the nationwide coalition would be to assist patients with accessing care in a state that is as close to the patient’s home state as is feasible, and in the most efficient, safe and cost effective way possible. Russell has already begun to discuss this idea with legislators, non-profit organizations, abortion care providers and State Treasurers to further develop this plan.

“Erick is a strong and vocal pro-choice advocate for women and the LGBTQ+ community. Shortly after the draft Dobbs decision was leaked, he reached out to me to discuss how the State Treasurer can best support individuals seeking access to abortion care," said State Representative Jillian Gilchrest, co-chair of the General Assembly's Reproductive Rights Caucus. "Erick then sought the input of a number of advocates and community-based organizations, and his proposal reflects his keen understanding of the role of the Treasurer and the challenges people seeking abortion care now face. I appreciate and applaud his collaborative approach and recognition that Connecticut can and should do more to protect a woman's right to a safe and legal abortion."

Even before the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe, which reversed nearly five decades of legal precedent and eliminated an individual’s constitutional right to an abortion, states across the country, in anticipation of that decision, had enacted legislation banning or restricting access to abortions and other healthcare procedures, even in instances of rape, incest or medical necessity. Women of color, the working poor, and members of the LGBTQ+ community are more negatively impacted by the recent Supreme Court decision, as they are more likely to lack the financial resources to travel to safe harbor states like Connecticut.

“While we commend the efforts by companies to combat barriers faced by those seeking abortion care, pregnant people should not have to disclose their personal and private medical decisions to their employer, especially when we consider the potential risk to their safety, livelihood or future job opportunities. The ability to access essential healthcare should not be solely tied to employment, and is yet another barrier pregnant people, particularly persons of color, persons with less economic resources and members of the LGBTQ+ community are subjected to by anti-abortion extremists who hold positions of power in legislative bodies and in the courts.” said Liz Gustafson, state director of Pro-Choice Connecticut. “Allocating resources to organizations with experience providing safe, confidential, compassionate care to their patients – organizations and providers already trusted by those seeking reproductive healthcare – is a tangible and effective way to offer practical support and abortion care to those traveling from out of state.”

The need for a nationwide, coordinated response to Dobbs is critical and dire. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “nearly 40 million U.S. women of reproductive age (58% of the total number) live in states that have demonstrated hostility to abortion rights.” Without this response, patients’ health and well-being will be put at risk and women will face criminalization based on pregnancy outcomes.  While some employers may cover abortion care -- and they should be applauded for doing so -- the reality is that millions of women who live in poverty or are working poor don’t have employers who provide healthcare coverage.  At all.

By establishing the Safe Harbor Fund and spearheading a nationwide network of pro-choice states willing to extend a helping hand, Connecticut will help to eliminate the financial barrier between people of lesser means and the reproductive healthcare they want, need, and up until just a few weeks ago were legally able to access where they live.

Maine State Treasurer, Henry Beck, added, “State Treasurers can and should play a role in protecting the rights of their citizens. Erick’s plan lays out a meaningful way for State Treasurers and state governments across the country to unify against the extremist right wing agenda that has usurped rights from women and is threatening to do more harm. I look forward to working with him to further develop this plan, partner with other State Treasurers across the country, and help provide much needed resources to those seeking safe and legal access to abortion care.”

About Erick Russell

Erick was born and raised in New Haven, where he currently lives with his husband, Chris. His father, who was a paratrooper in the Army and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and his mother, originally from Germany, moved to New Haven seeking better opportunities for their young family. With what little resources they had, they started a small convenience store in New Haven which Erick grew up working in. His parents worked tirelessly to provide better opportunities for him and his siblings, which allowed him to be the first person in his family to graduate from college and then law school, both here in Connecticut.

Since graduating, Erick has been practicing as an attorney at a prestigious Connecticut law firm where he is a partner in the firm’s Public and Private Finance Group. Erick’s practice focuses on representing municipalities, state agencies and the state in financing critical infrastructure projects, such as schools, affordable housing, childcare facilities, and transportation infrastructure, managing debt and restructuring pension obligations. Much of this work has been directly through the Office of the Treasurer, which has allowed Erick a unique opportunity to gain valuable experience and the perspective to see how the position can be used to make meaningful change in our State.

In addition to his professional work, Erick has been an active member in the community, serving the Democratic Party on the local, state and national level for the past 10 years, advocating for marginalized communities, and serving as a mentor, particularly to Black and LGBTQ+ youth.