Editorial: CT positions itself as an abortion sanctuary

The Connecticut state Capitol building in Hartford, Conn.

The Connecticut state Capitol building in Hartford, Conn.

Bob Child / AP

An editorial we published on the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 1998 predicted “the debate over abortion will be just as passionate in 2023 as it was in 1973.”

That debate has never abated in the last 49 years, and never will. For all that noise, it still comes down to the simple matter of whether a woman has the right to get an abortion. That is enough to carve the deepest of trenches in this modern civil war.

Connecticut is now a leader of the resistance to the U.S. Supreme Court’s current efforts to overturn the landmark decision. As the Court tries to push the decision into the hands of elected officials, Connecticut is positioning itself as a sanctuary.

The Reproductive Freedom Defense Act, which is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont, anticipated the Supreme Court’s actions.

The law would shield personnel who perform abortions in Connecticut, and thwart states that try to cross borders to punish medical professionals.

“But know this: if you are providing, assisting in, or seeking an abortion that is legal in Connecticut, we will defend you. If you are seeking to exercise your right to determine your reproductive future, we will defend you,” state Reps. Matt Blumenthal and Jillian Gilchrest, who co-chair the Reproductive Rights Caucus, wrote in a statement.

With actions such as the protections it codified in 1990, Connecticut has reliably braced itself for a fight that would cross generations. Matt Blumenthal, as just one example, is carrying forward the work of his father, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Our state also is unique because the issue does not check party boxes here. Therein lies a reminder that this can be a traumatic issue on both sides of the line.

When the Reproductive Freedom act passed the state Senate, conservative Republicans who opposed it were joined by two prominent Black Democrats, Marilyn Moore of Bridgeport and Patricia Billie Miller of Stamford.

“I can’t support a system that has systemically tried to get rid of a race of people,” Miller said.

The bill was approved on the House side with seven of the 87 “Yes” votes coming from Republicans and 14 “Nos” from Democrats, 10 of whom are people of color.

Only one Connecticut governor in the last 50 years has opposed abortion rights. Republican Gov. Thomas Meskill’s efforts to uphold Connecticut’s anti-abortion statute were repealed, which helped shape the Roe v. Wade decision a few months later.

Republican John Rowland was firmly anti-abortion during his tenure in Congress, shifting his position during his successful run for governor.

It will become a campaign issue again this year. Bob Stefanowski, who is expected to again claim the Republican nomination for governor, was pressed to clarify his position during his unsuccessful run against Lamont four years ago.

“Bob believes that Roe is settled law. He would not seek to limit access to reproductive choice if elected,” his spokesman said at the time. Since the law may not be settled, Stefanowski will be pressed for a new answer in the months to come.

Our editorial of a quarter century ago also theorized that the public dialogue over abortion was evolving. We’re not sure it has. Any discussion begins and ends with the individual, and her right to choose.

Connecticut is on the right side of history in defending her rights.