Connecticut lawmakers condemn Supreme Court draft decision, don't expect much change in state
Hartford — Members of Connecticut’s all-Democratic congressional delegation, the Lamont administration and the Connecticut General Assembly on Tuesday — through a flurry of statements and a news conference — strongly condemned reports of a draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would overturn the landmark 1973 abortion rights ruling Roe v. Wade.
However, state Republican legislators said that if the draft decision stands, they don't expect it to affect Connecticut much, as state laws — including one just recently passed — protect abortion rights here.
Gov. Ned Lamont joined a coalition of 17 governors writing a letter to congressional letters to urge the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, which would guarantee access to an abortion and the right of providers to deliver abortions, thereby codifying Roe v. Wade.
The lead Senate sponsor is Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who called the court draft decision's language “absolutely abhorrent” and said overturning Roe v. Wade “would leave American women abandoned and alone.”
“I am proud to be from Connecticut and we should move right away to make reproductive rights part of this November’s election,” he said. “Reproductive rights will be on the ballot and women will vote and they will make sure their voices are heard.”
House Minority Leader Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, told reporters Tuesday that he thinks the possible Supreme Court decision is going to have "very little impact on the state of Connecticut" because Connecticut codified protections in Roe v. Wade in 1990.
"I think it certainly is an issue that's going to energize people and polarize them," Candelora added. "This issue is a very sensitive, difficult issue, and it's unfortunate when it does get politicized. What we're seeing in states like Texas is something that I think Connecticut residents would take issue with."
Blumenthal's son state Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, co-chairs the state House Reproductive Caucus with Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, and in a news conference the caucus held, he called Tuesday a “devastating day.” All of the representatives and senators at the news conference are Democrats.
Gilchrest said that many of them were unfortunately expecting this opinion, but she said she wasn’t expecting “the misogyny and anti-choice rhetoric that comes along with it.”
“This decision moves us backward by making women second-class citizens and by cutting off equitable access to critical medical care,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said at the news conference. “By design, this opinion disadvantages immigrant, indigenous women and women of color, and it violates our due process and equal protection rights.”
Attorney General William Tong said “what the Supreme Court proposes to do is carpet bomb fundamental rights that are hardwired into who we are as Americans,” and that if the decision becomes real, “it will split this country in two.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, in a statement called the 98-page draft opinion “a full-throated attack on Supreme Court case law that has been painstakingly built over decades to protect the right of privacy for all Americans,” and said Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s language also is an attack on the “unenumerated rights” the Supreme Court cited for contraceptives, interracial marriage and same-sex marriage.
He said it’s time for the Senate to past the Women’s Health Protection Act, which passed in the House in September; Courtney was an original co-sponsor.
Reproductive Freedom Defense Act to become law
Rep. Matt Blumenthal said the report that the Supreme Court “is ready to overthrow almost 50 years of precedent protecting women’s autonomy” makes him “that much more glad that this General Assembly has seen fit to pass the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act.”
The bill, House Bill 5414, protects out-of-state people traveling to Connecticut for an abortion and expands the type of practitioners allowed to perform certain abortion-related care. The bill is now in the nonpartisan Legislative Commissioners’ Office and must go through a process before it can be presented to Lamont for his signature, but the governor on Tuesday reaffirmed his commitment to signing the bill into law.
“I am very appreciative to the majority of lawmakers in Connecticut who had the foresight to draft this legislation at a time when the right to a safe and legal abortion in America is in jeopardy,” Lamont said in a news release Tuesday. “I am proud to stand up for access to reproductive (health care) and reproductive freedom. As long as I am governor of this great state, we’ll never waiver on the right to choose.”
Bob Stefanowski, the presumed Republican nominee in this year’s gubernatorial election, said in a statement Tuesday that “the leaked Supreme Court opinion doesn’t change anything here in Connecticut,” The Stamford Advocate, a Hearst newspaper, reported. “In Connecticut, a woman’s right to choose is fully protected under state law,” he said.
State Reps. Christine Conley, D-Groton; Emmett Riley, D-Norwich; Kevin Ryan, D-Montville and Joe de la Cruz, D-Groton, voted in favor of the bill, while Reps. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme; Anthony Nolan, D-New London; Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford; Greg Howard, R-Stonington; Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin; and Mike France, R-Ledyard all voted no. The bill passed 87-60.
Cheeseman was among those who said Connecticut residents will not be affected by the court's leaked ruling. "I think Connecticut has guaranteed in statute a woman's right to choose, and that's not going to change regardless of what the Supreme Court says," she said Tuesday.
The Family Institute of Connecticut, an anti-abortion organization, said in a news release Tuesday that if the leaked draft turns out to be accurate, "it will be an enormous victory for life in America. Repealing Roe v. Wade is the very thing pro-lifers have marched for, prayed for, worked for, and voted for these last 49 years."
"Here in Connecticut, abortion will still be legal for now," the release said. "The good news is that the debate over HB 5414, the Abortion Expansion Bill, has exposed cracks in the abortion industry’s political support in Connecticut. They won the bill, pro-lifers won the argument."
The organization also noted how some lawmakers had brought up historical inequities during debate on the bill: "Several black legislators pleaded with their white progressive colleagues to recognize how abortion has targeted the black community and to vote 'no' on HB 5414. The refusal of the white progressives (in both parties) to listen to their black colleagues marks a turning point in the abortion debate in Connecticut."
The Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference represents bishops in a few dioceses, including Norwich. Executive Director Christopher Healy submitted testimony against HB 5414, saying it violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution, which says states have to respect the "public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state."