Reaction was swift in West Hartford and across the state following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade.
By Ronni Newton
Just after 10 a.m. Friday, the breaking news alerts began arriving – confirming the news that had been leaked early last month – that the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had protected abortion rights on the federal level.
Reaction from Connecticut state leaders, and local officials, was quick to follow.
“Tonight, millions of women nationwide will end their day with fewer rights than they woke up with,” Connecticut Atty. Gen. William Tong said in a statement that arrived via email at 10:17 a.m.
“We need to be clear-eyed and realistic about just how dangerous this decision is for women, patients, and doctors, and what it signals for every single major decision before the Court. Make no mistake – this is just the beginning of a systematic right-wing effort to rewrite decades of bedrock legal precedent, the foundation of which is our long-recognized right to privacy in making our most personal decisions. 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. This decision carves our nation in two – states that trust the personal and professional decisions of women and doctors, and states where craven politicians control and criminalize those choices. Connecticut is a safe state, but we will need to be vigilant, aggressive and proactive to defend our rights,” Tong’s statement reads.
Minutes later, Gov. Ned Lamont also issued a statement denouncing the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision drastically oversteps the constitutional right for Americans to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions without government interference,” Lamont said. “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.”
In advance of the expected overturn of Roe v. Wade, Connecticut’s legislature passed a bill protecting patients who travel to Connecticut to seek abortion care form a state that has outlawed it. Lamont signed Public Act 22-19, which also expands the types of practitioners who can provide certain types of abortion care, on May 10.
“I am grateful to live in Connecticut, where our laws make it clear that women have a right to choose. 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,” the governor said in a statement Friday.
At a women’s health center in Hamden later Friday, Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz invited anyone with a uterus to come to Connecticut, and pledged that they were “placing abortion at the forefront of their reelection campaign,” CTNewsJunkie reported.
Bysiewicz, in a statement, said that although Connecticut is a leader in protecting women’s reproductive rights, and will remain a safe harbor, Friday was 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.”
“I am not shocked but I am heartbroken, angry, devastated and incredibly concerned by today’s Supreme Court decision to reject the half century of precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade,” said West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor. “This is a direct affront to women’s reproductive rights and personal freedom. In many parts of our country, clinics will close and women will be denied the right to make basic decisions over their bodies and health. It is now incumbent on leaders at every level of government – local, state, and federal – to ensure women continue to have access to abortion. My Democratic colleagues on the Town Council and I will do everything we can to protect women’s reproductive rights in West Hartford and elsewhere,” she said.
“My thanks to the governor and state and legislative leaders for their commitment to protecting women’s reproductive rights,” said Cantor.
Cantor, who is Jewish, said the Supreme Court’s ruling Friday contradicts an important tenet of Judaism that values the health of women.
The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford decried the ruling as “contrary to centuries-old Jewish law and traditions, as well as our principal value of saving a life. Judaism compels us to stand for all life, and we prioritize the life and health of a pregnant person. While we treat a fetus with great significance, it does not merit equal status with the person giving birth. If the fetus endangers a person’s life physically or through mental anguish, Jewish law supports or may counsel abortion.”
The JCRC stated that the ruling effectively enshrined one religious view over another, in violation of the “foundational principle of separation of church and state prohibits the governmental imposition of religious beliefs.”
The decision was praised as “hopeful and encouraging moment” in a statement issued Friday by the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference.
“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,” a statement from the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference states. “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 statement also calls for peaceful debate, and adds that parishes and social programs “must be prepared to meet the increasing needs for pro-life pregnancy resource centers and supports for women raising children.”
“I am stunned at this news,” state Sen. Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) said in a statement. “Even though we knew it was likely, I am so saddened at what this decision will do for women’s freedom and for our nation. It is not enough to just take solace that we live in a state like Connecticut which protects women’s freedom. We know that all women in all states deserve the right to choose. We also know that the rights we enjoy in Connecticut are under attack – in every election, and every year, we need to remain vigilant.”
“There are so many reasons a woman may seek an abortion. Today’s Supreme Court decision disregards that and with it the health and safety of women,” state Rep. Jillian Gilchrest (D-West Hartford) tweeted Friday.
“It’s hard to find the words when the highest court of law in our nation takes away your fundamental rights. I’m devastated, angry and terrified,” state Rep. Kate Farrar (D-West Hartford) wrote on Twitter, pledging to continue to fight for women’s rights in the state and nationally.
State Rep. Tammy Exum expressed fear that this decision is just the beginning of an erosion of other human rights. “For most of my life, #RoeVsWade was the law of the land; it was considered settled law. I worry about what other rights will be overturned. What comes next? Gay marriage? Interracial marriage? Privacy?” she wrote on Twitter.
Bob Stefanowski, the Republican candidate for governor, also took to Twitter to comment. “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,” he tweeted.
Connecticut’s senators also issued statements Friday.
“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,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said.
“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. Politicians do not know better than women what kind of care they need from their physicians. The government should never be allowed to dictate decisions about pregnancy that should remain between a woman and her doctor. The government should not be able to impose a forced pregnancy on anyone – especially a pregnancy that is the result of abuse or rape or threatens their life.”
“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,” a statement from U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy reads. “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,” said Murphy.
U.S. Rep. John Larson called the decision to overturn nearly 50 years of precedent “shameful.”
“The House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act ten months ago, and the Supreme Court’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked in April of this year. The Senate knows the urgency to protect this right, and the filibuster is once again standing in the way. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say you need 60 votes to pass a law,” Larson said in a statement.
Dr. Manisha Juthani, Connecticut’s commissioner of the Department of Public Health, said the ruling “makes reproductive rights uneven across the country and disproportionately affects women of low-income households, as well as women and people of color. More importantly, this ruling can result in the return of dangerous and life-threatening situations when people seek abortions but do not have access to the full repertoire of medical resources that may be necessary.”
Juthani said Connecticut’s DPH is committed to ensuring safe and quality care for all.
Dr. Deidre Gifford, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Social Services, said she was trained in obstetrics and gynecology “by a generation of clinicians who had seen up close the devastating impacts on women’s health of a lack of access to safe abortion services. Unsafe and illegal abortions can result in irreversible harm to women’s health.
“In light of today’s US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, I want to reassure all HUSKY healthcare members that they will continue to receive all necessary reproductive health services and to the full extent allowed under state law. HUSKY Health is committed to maintaining access to reproductive services, including abortion, through the Medicaid program, as permitted by federal law, or through state funds,” Gifford said.
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