The statements were teed up and ready. Within minutes of the U.S. Supreme Court releasing an opinion Friday overturning Roe v. Wade, echoing a draft leaked to Politico in early May, the Democratic political establishment in Connecticut reacted with fury.
Republicans were slower to respond, most minimizing an issue that Democrats believe could energize their base.
The 6-3 ruling will echo through campaigns but have no immediate impact on access to abortion in Connecticut, a state that codified in state law the tenets of Roe: a woman’s right to an abortion up to fetal viability.
An hour after the decision was handed down, the first pair of Republican lawmakers in Connecticut issued a statement on the ruling. In that release, Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, and Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, emphasized that abortion rights in Connecticut are untouched.
“The Supreme Court’s decision does not change a woman’s right to choose in the state of Connecticut, nor will it,” they wrote. “In Connecticut, the protections in Roe v. Wade were codified in state law in 1990. Over the years Connecticut has been joined by many other states in enacting similar protections, and the right to choose is broadly protected across New England. The Supreme Court decision does not and will not change the Connecticut laws that have embedded these protections in state law.”
Bob Stefanowski, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, also sought to downplay the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn nearly 50 years of legal precedent.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling has absolutely no impact on Connecticut residents. I will continue to support Connecticut’s state law, which has codified a woman’s right to choose, with an appropriate ban on late-term abortion,” Stefanowski wrote in a press release. “Governor Lamont takes the extreme position that parents don’t even have a right to know their daughter is considering an abortion, while I support mandatory notification to parents for girls under sixteen.”
Connecticut’s Democratic leaders, however, viewed the decision as a direct threat to women’s reproductive rights nationwide, and they were eager to point out that access to an abortion in Connecticut was now contingent on state elected leaders upholding that right.
“Now that the Supreme Court has put an end to safe, legal abortions as a right in our country, Connecticut is dependent on having lawmakers and a governor who will defend that right,” said state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25). “We are no longer dealing with a theoretical threat to abortion access. Every local election will determine our access to that right.”
Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling released a statement Friday afternoon, after being contacted by NancyOnNorwalk:
“It is a sad moment for our nation and infuriating that the U.S. Supreme Court has moved to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for nearly 50 years. In 1973, Roe granted women across our nation the right to make personal decisions about their bodies and futures. This ruling is not in line with the values of the majority of Americans who overwhelmingly support Roe. Personal decisions about reproductive healthcare should only be made between a patient and their doctor- not by politicians or Supreme Court Justices. Full stop.
“I want the residents of Norwalk to know that here in Connecticut, Governor Lamont, the Legislature and myself will continue to ensure their rights are protected. I am also proud that in May, Governor Lamont signed the first-of-its-kind legislation that protects medical providers and patients seeking abortion care in Connecticut who may be traveling from other states that have banned abortion. Connecticut is and will remain a safe haven for those across America who need access to safe, legal abortion care.”
At least two Republican candidates for Congress voiced the need for abortion rights in the United States and their support for such procedures.
“I am pro-choice and in the legislature worked to protect women’s right to access safe early-term abortion services,” said Themis Klarides, who is running for U.S. Senate and won the state Republican Party endorsement earlier this year.
What is a woman? https://t.co/NJ8MQNuWPu
— Daniel Miressi (@DanMiressiCT) June 24, 2022
Duff’s Republican opponent, Daniel Miressi, posted a statement on Twitter:
“Today’s ruling did what the constitution was intended to do, which is leave personal decisions and cultural trajectory to the States and its PEOPLE to decide.
“Roe v Wade asks the court to make a moral judgement for an entire country: This is not how America was meant to be structured and as such had no real legal standing. The ubiquitous right to take the life of an unborn person should not be recognized as, and was never actually, constitutional.
“Local elections are now more important than ever before because it’s where we define who we want to be, as the best state in this union, without the oversight of the Federal Govn’t. So, I implore the people to get out this November and VOTE so YOUR area reflects YOUR values.”
“Nothing changes for us in Connecticut. We put Roe v. Wade into Connecticut statute over thirty years ago, and I support keeping what we have,” Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Fred Wilms said Saturday.
Norwalk Common Council member Josh Goldstein (D-At Large) called the Supreme Court ruling “awful” and announced a 10 a.m. rally Saturday on the town green. “We need to stand up and fight for our rights, including a woman’s right to choose. Every local election will determine our access to vital rights from same-sex marriage to access to contraception,” he wrote.
Larry Lazor, a Republican physician running a long shot campaign in the overwhelmingly Democratic 1st Congressional District, both downplayed the impact and promised the defend abortion rights.
“Overturning Roe v. Wade leaves abortion access under state control,” Lazor said. “Having cared for women and families for 32 years I’ve seen many difficult situations and know the need for the option. I will push to protect these rights on a federal level the right way, through legislation.”
Klarides asked voters not to focus on abortion access when they enter the ballot box in November.“I know the rhetoric will be heated and adversarial on this, but here in Connecticut where the right to a safe, legal, and hopefully rare abortion is safely enshrined into law, I urge focus on the issues that CAN change, such as making Connecticut a safer, more affordable place to raise a family and start a business,” she said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat whom Klarides is trying to unseat, disagreed. He said a Republican Senate led once again by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the strategist behind the nomination and confirmation of conservative justices, would see a federal ban on abortion.
This is a disaster – for women, doctors, families, and all Americans. What we have now is a tiny group of politicians masquerading as justices, using their fancy robes and lifetime appointments as cover to impose their right wing political views on the entire country. https://t.co/EfHjZlXKpJ
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 24, 2022
Leora Levy, one of the two anti-abortion candidates challenging Klarides for the GOP nomination, applauded the decision.
“Today the Supreme Court decision has returned America to valuing, respecting and protecting life,” Levy said. “Unfortunately we cannot turn back time and ensure a chance for life to the 45 million babies who never had one, but we can celebrate the end of progressive pressure to abandon the Constitution and our American values.”
What people said
Here is a selection of comments from Connecticut leaders and elected officials.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision drastically oversteps the constitutional right for Americans to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions without government interference. Decisions on reproductive healthcare should only be made between a patient and their doctor without the interference of politicians. This ruling will not only result in a patchwork of unequal laws among the states, but more importantly it will result in dangerous and life-threatening situations similar to what this country witnessed countless times in the era prior to the landmark Roe case in which women died or were left severely injured because they could not access the medical care that they should have every right to access on their own.” — Gov. Ned Lamont
“Today is a dark and devastating day for women across this nation. This ruling demolishes almost a half century of settled law ensuring women’s reproductive freedom, and the right to have an abortion is an integral part of a women’s reproductive freedom. This ruling is cruel and unconscionable because it targets poor women, indigenous women and women of color in particular. This ruling does not mean that women will no longer receive abortions, but millions of women will no longer have access to safe abortions. This ruling will criminalize health care providers, and half of our country. This unbelievable decision moves our country backward by preventing women from achieving full equality by overturning a law that a majority of our country supports.” — Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz
“We are about to see a tsunami of radical litigation and legislation aimed at further eroding rights we have taken for granted — some for generations. Marriage equality, inter-racial marriage and access to birth control are all in the crosshairs. We know already there are plans to push for a nationwide abortion ban should Republicans gain control of both houses of Congress. If that happens, I will be the first to sue.” — Attorney General William Tong
“Today, with the U.S. Supreme Court reversing the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision on the right to abortion, we enter a new era of opportunity and responsibility to safeguard life and protect the most innocent among us. We welcome this historic reversal, which affirms the right to life of an unborn child and we pledge to do all that is possible to support pregnant women who face serious challenges. The Dobbs decision presents all of us with new and persistent challenges and opportunities. Future debates over abortion must be peaceful and respectful. There are people deeply divided by their beliefs on both sides of this issue. Acts of violence and other hateful actions will only make it more difficult for constructive discourse. It is time for reconciliation as we support a culture of life together.” — Connecticut’s Catholic bishops
“This is the victory the pro-life movement has worked for these past 49 years. We should celebrate it. And prepare ourselves for the battles that still lie ahead here in Connecticut.” — Family Institute of Connecticut
“A Republican-appointed Supreme Court just struck down 50 years of precedent in an abhorrent assault on the basic American right to seek health care. Make no mistake, this ruling is a targeted attack on bodily autonomy and denies women the most basic freedom: to control their own bodies, health care and future. This ruling does not reflect the will of the people, but rather the radical politicization of America’s highest court. The fight isn’t over.” — U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th District)
“This decision will cause confusion, pain, and division across our country and will do so disproportionally for low income women whose health care options are already limited. Democrats in the General Assembly anticipated this upending of legal precedent and enacted additional safeguards for reproductive health care in our state this year, including protection against litigation from residents of other states.” — Connecticut Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney (D-11)
“In overturning Roe, the Court strips women of the freedom to make their own healthcare decisions and puts that power in the hands of the government. A woman no longer has the right to decide when and whether to bear children. In fact, if Mitch McConnell is in charge, he’ll be leading a national ban on abortion, shredding laws in Connecticut and other states protecting women’s choice.” — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
“A group of unelected politicians masquerading as justices just eliminated a constitutional right that generations of women have known and relied on – the right to make decisions about their own bodies, to decide if and when to have children. This is a disaster for every person in every state – even in states like Connecticut that have proactively protected the right to an abortion. And it’s only the beginning. Overturning Roe was the first step toward achieving the Republicans’ ultimate goal: a nationwide abortion ban. Today is a devastating day, and those of us who believe government should stay out of women’s health care must do everything in our power to fight back. Giving up is not an option.” — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)
“While I am not surprised, I am deeply disturbed by the ruling of Supreme Court. This decision is horrifying and jeopardizes the health care of millions. For decades, we have seen the right to choose under attack, and today, those rights have been stripped away in one swift decision. Banning abortions will not stop abortions; it only compels women to risk their lives and health by seeking unsafe abortion care. Reproductive care and abortion access are essential. I will continue to fight so every person can make their personal health care decisions.” — U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-5th District)
“I wish I was shocked, but I sadly am not. This activist conservative Supreme Court that lambasts decisions it does not like as judicial activism has made a dangerous move, disregarding science and decades of legal precedent to strip away a woman’s fundamental and constitutional right to make her own health care decisions. Make no mistake, this decision puts women’s lives at risk.” — U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-3rd District)
“The decision released by the Supreme Court today overturning 50 years of settled law protecting the reproductive health decisions of women and families in the U.S. is a stunning step backwards for the privacy rights of all Americans. This isn’t just about reproductive choice—according to the reasoning of the Supreme Court’s majority opinion and concurring opinion by Justice Thomas, privacy rulings in the Griswold and Obergefell cases protecting access to contraceptives and marriage are at risk. That is why huge majorities of Americans in public opinion polls opposed overturning Roe. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor—a Reagan appointee—warned decades ago that a decision like this would come with a ‘bitter price’ for our country, and she was right.” — U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-2nd District)
“Today, Donald Trump’s hand-picked conservative U.S. Supreme Court rolled the clock back by decades on the fundamental right, the fundamental choice, that American women have had enshrined in constitutional law for half a century. Today, that conservative U.S. Supreme Court returned America to a darker time in our past — a time of fright and secrecy, of shame and physical danger for women. But women all across America today should know: Connecticut and its laws — written and passed by Democrats — is a beacon of hope and safety for you. We understand, we are on your side, and we will always be there for women who someday may have to make a difficult decision about their own body and who will need compassion, care, and a legal system that supports and protects them. That will never change in Connecticut.” — State Sen. Julie Kushner (D-24)
“Although we have been waiting for the other shoe to drop since we learned of the Supreme Court leaked opinion in May, I don’t know that we could have adequately prepared ourselves for the emotional toll this decision brings. While we deserve time to digest this reversal of long-settled law, we do not have the luxury of inaction. My colleagues and I will continue to ensure abortion is legal, safe and accessible here in Connecticut, and Connecticut will remain a safe haven for those seeking and providing abortions. State legislatures will now be a citizen’s direct line of defense in this attack on reproductive rights, and I implore you to continue to elect representatives who are steadfast and unwavering in their support of abortion access.” — State Sen. Christine Cohen (D-12)
“People of color have historically experienced disproportionately poor health outcomes and poor treatment in the health care system, and today’s ruling will likely have an outsized effect on people of color who will find their health care choices further constrained. Already, women of color have worse outcomes in maternal health, regardless of socioeconomic status.” — Tiffany Donelson, president, Connecticut Health Foundation.
NancyOnNorwalk reporter Nancy Guenther Chapman contributed to this story.
Updated 1:49 p.m.: More information.