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Connecticut Democrats rush to protect abortion rights — and say their GOP opponents will not

J.D. Allen

Connecticut is rushing to protect abortion rights for residents and people traveling to obtain the procedure. Governor Ned Lamont and Senator Richard Blumenthal are emphasizing the importance of the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Meanwhile, Bob Stefanowski and Themis Klarides, Republicans who are running to unseat them, are downplaying its importance in Connecticut, where abortion rights have been protected for over 30 years.

WSHU’s Ebong Udoma spoke with CT Mirror’s Mark Pazniokas to discuss his articles, Fast and furious reaction from Connecticut on overturning of Roe v. Wade,”and “CT will become a ‘safe harbor’ for abortion seekers on July 1. What does that mean?” as part of the collaborative podcast Long Story Short.

WSHU: You say the political reaction in Connecticut was pretty much teed up by the time the decision came down. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?

MP: Certainly. Thanks to Politico, which had obtained a draft of what ultimately turned out to be pretty much the final decision of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, people have known since the middle of May really what was coming down. So when the Supreme Court Friday issued its report, yes, the Democrats were very much prepared to issue statements of condemnation. They were very quick off the mark. It was within minutes, if not seconds of that decision coming out.

WSHU: What about the Republicans? Where do Connecticut Republicans stand on this issue? And what was their response?

MP: There are some candidates who are declared opponents of abortion and they applauded this decision. But some of the more prominent candidates, namely the Republican nominee for governor, Bob Stefanowski, as well as the convention-endorsed candidate for the United States Senate, Themis Klarides. They took a similar tack, which was to downplay the impact of this decision in Connecticut, given that Connecticut in 1990 passed the state law codifying the basic tenets of Roe in statute.

So Connecticut does have on the books a law that's quite clear about guaranteeing a woman's right to abortion up to the point of fetal viability, which is roughly 23 weeks of gestation.

WSHU: So both Stefanowski, the gubernatorial candidate, and Klarides, who is contesting to run against Blumenthal — she's the front runner in her primaries, pretty much — both of them believe that the state has already codified Roe, so it's not an issue in Connecticut.

MP: Well, that is their hope. This is an issue which they really hope will fade. And that is a, you know, that is a very politically astute assessment of the politics in Connecticut — Connecticut is strongly a pro-choice state — that the voters overwhelmingly support a woman's right to choose.

There are some variations as to how extensive that right should be. You know, there's a minority who thinks that it should be unlimited. But by and large, the safest place to be politically in Connecticut is to be supporting the status quo as far as abortion law in Connecticut and Bob Stefanowski and Themis Klarides' statements reflect that fact.

They really do not want to engage in a debate about abortion with either Governor Lamont or Senator Blumenthal.

WSHU: Now, what about the Governor and the Senator? Do they want to engage in a debate? What has been the reaction from Governor Lamont and Senator Blumenthal?

MP: Well, aside from their very strong comments on Friday, it is noteworthy that both the Governor and the Senator are on the air with television commercials underlining their unqualified support for abortion rights in Connecticut, and in the case of Senator Blumenthal, he is making the argument that if control of the United States Senate falls to Republicans, that there is a chance that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will pursue a national ban on abortion.

So, Blumenthal is really making the case that given that the Senate is now divided 50/50 with the vote of the presiding officer, Vice President Kamala Harris, giving the Democrats nominal control. Blumenthal is making the case that if you don't vote for him, there's a good chance women, even in Connecticut, will lose the right to an abortion.

But Klarides also says under no circumstances would she support Senator McConnell in a vote for a national ban on abortion. The other argument in her favor is that even if the Republicans win control of the Senate, I don't see anybody who anticipates them winning a 60-vote majority, which would be necessary to have an easy vote on this.

WSHU: We have some new laws that are taking effect this week, on the first of July. What do they do?

MP: The law that takes effect on July 1 does basically two things. One, it expands who can perform abortions. The other piece is a reaction, not just to anticipating the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but a reaction to the passage of a law in Texas, which empowers anybody in Texas to sue anyone who's involved in an abortion after a certain point, and that includes people who drive a patient to an abortion clinic. It includes abortion providers.

And the law that Connecticut passed, which is a first in the nation, it was a political statement affirming that Connecticut will protect women and providers in Connecticut. But it also offers some legal protections against people from Texas who could legally try to reach into Connecticut and sue somebody for an abortion that was obtained in Connecticut. And it's fairly detailed. It provides the ability of somebody who's sued Connecticut to recover legal costs. It also limits or bars the health records that could be subpoenaed, and it also restricts extradition if something rises to a criminal offense.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.