Gov. Ned Lamont is challenging his Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski, to break his silence and take a position on the abortion rights bill that recently passed with the support of Stefanowski’s running mate, Rep. Laura Devlin of Fairfield.
“I think that any candidate for governor has got to speak up and let us know where you stand,” Lamont said Tuesday at a ceremonial signing of the bill outside the Capitol. “What have I heard from the Republican candidate for governor? Crickets.”
Stefanowski has remained silent on House Bill 5414 in the three weeks since it cleared the House of Representatives on an 87-60 vote, with Devlin and six other Republicans voting with 80 Democrats in support.
The measure provides a “safe harbor” to women from states with restrictive abortion laws who get abortions in Connecticut, as well as the clinicians who provide them.
It also conforms state law with a 21-year-old legal opinion permitting APRNs, nurse midwives and physicians’ assistants to perform first-trimester abortions by suction, the most common type of early abortion.
Stefanowski’s only comment on abortion in recent weeks was a suggestion that abortion was not an issue in Connecticut.
He responded cautiously to the leak of a draft opinion that indicated a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court had taken at least an early vote on overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized abortion.
“The leaked Supreme Court opinion doesn’t change anything here in Connecticut. In Connecticut, a woman’s right to choose is fully protected under state law,” Stefanowski said last week in a written statement.
Stefanowski’s campaign said Tuesday that he had no further comment.
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said Stefanowski is offering women no assurance he would veto any effort to restrict access to abortion in Connecticut, a state whose legislature passed a law 32 years ago codifying the tenets of Roe.
“It’s one thing to support the current law. It’s another thing to step forward and say if a bill should come to your desk, that you will veto it, and you will fight any attempts to weaken our law, because those happen every year,” Bysiewicz said. “So you’re not pro-choice, in my estimation, until you step up and say that.”
Sen. Heather Somers of Groton, one of four Republicans to vote for the bill in the Senate, said after the ceremonial bill signing that whether Stefanowski would have signed it will be an issue.
“I think that’s a fair question. His running mate supported it. Laura Devlin has always been somebody who is pro-choice, as far as I understand from her history,” Somers said. “This is definitely going to be a campaign issue.”
Somers, who spoke at length in favor of the bill during the Senate debate, said she was unsure if Stefanowski had read it. Devlin said last week she and Stefanowski had not discussed it.
Somers attended the bill-signing ceremony with her daughter, Hayley, and 2-year-old granddaughter, Stevie.
The campaign entered a new phase this week with Lamont and Stefanowski each formally becoming their party’s endorsed candidate, setting the stage for a rematch of the 2018 race Lamont won by 3 percentage points.