Hundreds of people protested outside the federal courthouse and marched in downtown New Haven on Friday evening to advocate for abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. / Photo by Yehyun Kim,

By John Schwing

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Friday to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision triggered shockwaves of divided opinion over abortion rights nationally, but in Westport and Connecticut the edict was greeted by widespread denunciations across the partisan spectrum.

While the ruling by the court’s conservative majority activated laws that virtually ban all abortions in states across the South and Midwest, Connecticut politicians from both major political parties criticized the decision and generally offered support for the state’s abortion-rights protections now codified in law.

That reflects what public opinion polls indicate is strong public backing for reproductive rights in Connecticut, most recently with approval of a “safe harbor” law this spring.

And abortion rights in Westport have consistently won vocal support, with a series of downtown rallies calling for protection of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that began last fall and culminated with demonstrations this spring after the Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe was leaked in May.

Another rally is planned Sunday to protest Friday’s ruling.

The Representative Town Meeting also weighed in earlier this month, unanimously passing a resolution in support of a woman’s right to abortion.

Democrats lambaste court, vow state protections

Connecticut’s Democratic leaders view Friday’s decision as a direct threat to women’s reproductive rights nationwide, and were eager to point out that access to an abortion in Connecticut is now contingent on state elected leaders upholding that right.

From Gov. Ned Lamont and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal to state Sen. Will Haskell and state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, state and local Democrats ripped the ruling and voiced support for Connecticut’s laws ensuring reproductive rights.

The decision, Lamont said, “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 …

“I am grateful to live in Connecticut, where our laws make it clear that women have a right to choose,” he added. “As long as I am governor, reproductive rights will be protected in Connecticut and I will do everything in my power to block laws from being passed that restrict those rights.”

Blumenthal, who like Lamont is a candidate for re-election this year, agreed. “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. Every American should have the right to decide whether and when to have children,” the senator said.

Haskell and Steinberg issued similar statements.

“Is it possible to be unsurprised but stunned? Today, our country took a devastating step backward,” Haskell said. “Now, states must follow Connecticut’s lead by insisting that abortion is health care and ensuring all are welcome to exercise their rights here.”

And, said Steinberg, the ruling “eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion after nearly 50 years.

“This harmful opinion also casts doubt on the future protections of same-sex marriage, other LGBTQ rights and contraception.”

Area Republicans critical of ruling

Republicans also were generally supportive of the state’s legal protections of reproductive rights.

Toni Boucher, seeking to reclaim the state Senate seat that she lost to Haskell four years ago, said, “I am thankful that Connecticut is a state where a woman’s right to choose is already strongly protected and codified in state law. As a result of the bipartisan policies enacted in Connecticut, the Supreme Court’s ruling does not and will not change a woman’s right to choose here in our state.”

Likewise, Republican state Sen. Tony Hwang of Fairfield, said, “What we are seeing in other states in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling issued today is distressing, alarming, and would never stand in Connecticut. I am grateful to live in Connecticut where we have already codified into state law the protections of Roe v. Wade. Connecticut strongly protects a woman’s right to choose and has embedded these protections in our state laws.”

Bob Stefanowski, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, sought to downplay the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn nearly 50 years of legal precedent, while also taking a swipe at Lamont.

“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’s statement said.

“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,” he added.

Some, however, hail decision

There were, however, a few state voices hailing the Supreme Court ruling.

Peter Wolfgang, the executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, recognized the public is largely pro-choice in Connecticut at the moment, but he argued that sentiment is “thawing.” 

The court’s decision to overturn Roe, Wolfgang said, opens up the opportunity to change public policy in Connecticut. He compared the ruling to the fall of the Berlin Wall and Juneteenth. 

“Today is liberation day for the unborn,” Wolgang said. “This is a victory we have been working toward for 49 years.”

With additional reporting by