The statements were teed up and ready. Within minutes of the U.S. Supreme Court releasing an opinion Friday overturning Roe v. Wade, echoing a draft leaked to Politico in early May, the Democratic political establishment in Connecticut reacted with fury.

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

“Now that the Supreme Court has put an end to safe, legal abortions as a right in our country, Connecticut is dependent on having lawmakers and a governor who will defend that right,” said state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. “We are no longer dealing with a theoretical threat to abortion access. Every local election will determine our access to that right.”

The ruling will echo through campaigns but have no immediate impact on access to abortion in Connecticut, a state that codified in state law the tenets of Roe: a woman’s right to an abortion up to fetal viability.

Republicans were slower to respond, most minimizing an issue that Democrats believe could energize their base. Two celebrated.

An hour after the decision was handed down, the first pair of Republican lawmakers in Connecticut issued a statement on the ruling. In that release, Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, and Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, emphasized that abortion rights in Connecticut are untouched.

“The Supreme Court’s decision does not change a woman’s right to choose in the state of Connecticut, nor will it,” they wrote. “In Connecticut, the protections in Roe v. Wade were codified in state law in 1990. Over the years Connecticut has been joined by many other states in enacting similar protections, and the right to choose is broadly protected across New England. The Supreme Court decision does not and will not change the Connecticut laws that have embedded these protections in state law.”

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

“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 wrote in a press release. “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.”

The Family Institute of Connecticut and the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference, which represents the state’s Catholic bishops, made no attempt to downplay the significance of the ruling, however.

During a sparsely-attended rally at the State Capitol on Friday afternoon, several conservative lawmakers and anti-abortion advocates said their long term goal is to make abortion illegal in Connecticut.

Peter Wolfgang, the Executive Director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, lauded the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Behind him in a dark blue suit is Republican state Rep. Mike France, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney in the November election. Andrew Brown

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.” 

Wolfgang said he intends to start by advocating for a law in the upcoming legislative session, which would require medical providers in Connecticut to notify the parents of any minor seeking an abortion in the state. 

But he and the more conservative wing of the Republican Party don’t want to stop there. In the long term, Wolfgang said the goal would be to repeal the 1990 state law that codified Roe v. Wade in Connecticut.

State Rep. Mike France, who is running for a U.S. House seat in Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District, also advocated for eventually repealing the pro-abortion laws that currently exist in the state. 

“The fight continues, but now it goes to the state legislatures,” France said. 

At least two other Republican candidates for Congress voiced the need for abortion rights in the United States and their support for such procedures.

“I am pro-choice and in the legislature worked to protect women’s right to access safe early-term abortion services,” said Themis Klarides, who is running for U.S. Senate and won the state Republican Party endorsement earlier this year.

Larry Lazor, a Republican physician running a long-shot campaign in the overwhelmingly Democratic 1st Congressional District, both downplayed the impact of the ruling and promised the defend abortion rights.

“Overturning Roe v. Wade leaves abortion access under state control,” Lazor said. “Having cared for women and families for 32 years, I’ve seen many difficult situations and know the need for the option. I will push to protect these rights on a federal level the right way, through legislation.”

Klarides asked voters not to focus on abortion access when they enter the ballot box in November.

“I know the rhetoric will be heated and adversarial on this, but here in Connecticut, where the right to a safe, legal, and hopefully rare abortion is safely enshrined into law, I urge focus on the issues that CAN change, such as making Connecticut a safer, more affordable place to raise a family and start a business,” she said.

Leora Levy and Peter Lumaj, the two Republicans challenging Klarides for the right to face Blumenthal in November, applauded the court’s decision.

“Today the Supreme Court decision has returned America to valuing, respecting and protecting life,” Levy said.  “Unfortunately we cannot turn back time and ensure a chance for life to the 45 million babies who never had one, but we can celebrate the end of progressive pressure to abandon the Constitution and our American values.” 

“This is a monumental day for the pro-life movement and I stand with them in celebration today,” Lumaj said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat whom Klarides is trying to unseat, disagreed. He said a Republican Senate led once again by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the strategist behind the nomination and confirmation of conservative justices, would see a federal ban on abortion.

At a midday press conference, Blumenthal and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy each said the court has become another legislative body, one driven by politics and outcome, not law.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal criticizes the Supreme Court overturning the Roe v. Wade decision. Other democrat legislators, including Gov. Ned Lamont, joined the press conference to support abortion rights. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

“This Supreme Court is outcome driven. They rearrange the fancy legal jargon to arrive at the result that is driven by their right wing fringe ideological slant. And they are destroying the credibility of the United States Supreme Court,” said Blumenthal, who was a clerk for former Justice Harry Blackmun after the Roe decision was handed down.

“This is awful news for women, for families, for health care providers, for every American. The idea that politicians should be in charge of women’s health care is unconscionable. And what we saw is six politicians masquerading as justices trying to impose their political views on this nation,” Murphy said.

“This morning, the United States Supreme Court stripped women of the freedom to decide whether and when to have children and put it in the power of government officials. Literally, government officials now can decide the most personal fundamental health care decisions that women make in their whole lifetime,” Blumenthal said.

He told Connecticut voters not to be sanguine. Connecticut law is a firewall but one that could be attacked.

“We are the firewall so long as Mitch McConnell is not majority leader. Let’s just be very blunt here. If Mitch McConnell becomes majority leader, he will lead us to a national ban on abortion,” said Blumenthal, a candidate for reelection.

What people said

Here is a selection of comments from Connecticut leaders and elected officials.

“I wish I was shocked, but I sadly am not. This activist conservative Supreme Court that lambasts decisions it does not like as judicial activism has made a dangerous move, disregarding science and decades of legal precedent to strip away a woman’s fundamental and constitutional right to make her own health care decisions. Make no mistake, this decision puts women’s lives at risk.” — U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro

“Today’s Supreme Court decision 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. 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.” — Gov. Ned Lamont

“Today is 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.” — Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz

“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.” — Attorney General William Tong

“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. 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 Dobbs decision presents all of us with new and persistent challenges and opportunities. Future debates over abortion must be peaceful and respectful. There are people deeply divided by their beliefs on both sides of this issue. Acts of violence and other hateful actions will only make it more difficult for constructive discourse. It is time for reconciliation as we support a culture of life together.” Connecticut’s Catholic bishops

“This is the victory the pro-life movement has worked for these past 49 years. We should celebrate it. And prepare ourselves for the battles that still lie ahead here in Connecticut.” Family Institute of Connecticut

The March for Life, a national anti-abortion organization, staged the rally for the first time in Connecticut as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed reversing Roe. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

“While I am not surprised, I am deeply disturbed by the ruling of Supreme Court. This decision is horrifying and jeopardizes the health care of millions. For decades, we have seen the right to choose under attack, and today, those rights have been stripped away in one swift decision. Banning abortions will not stop abortions; it only compels women to risk their lives and health by seeking unsafe abortion care. Reproductive care and abortion access are essential. I will continue to fight so every person can make their personal health care decisions.” — U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes

“A Republican-appointed Supreme Court just struck down 50 years of precedent in an abhorrent assault on the basic American right to seek health care. Make no mistake, this ruling is a targeted attack on bodily autonomy and denies women the most basic freedom: to control their own bodies, health care and future. This ruling does not reflect the will of the people, but rather the radical politicization of America’s highest court. The fight isn’t over.” — U.S. Rep. Jim Himes

“This decision will cause confusion, pain, and division across our country and will do so disproportionally for low income women whose health care options are already limited. Democrats in the General Assembly anticipated this upending of legal precedent and enacted additional safeguards for reproductive health care in our state this year, including protection against litigation from residents of other states.” — Connecticut Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney

“The decision released by the Supreme Court today overturning 50 years of settled law protecting the reproductive health decisions of women and families in the U.S. is a stunning step backwards for the privacy rights of all Americans. This isn’t just about reproductive choice—according to the reasoning of the Supreme Court’s majority opinion and concurring opinion by Justice Thomas, privacy rulings in the Griswold and Obergefell cases protecting access to contraceptives and marriage are at risk. That is why huge majorities of Americans in public opinion polls opposed overturning Roe. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor—a Reagan appointee—warned decades ago that a decision like this would come with a ‘bitter price’ for our country, and she was right.” U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney

“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. 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.” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy

“Today, Donald Trump’s hand-picked conservative U.S. Supreme Court rolled the clock back by decades on the fundamental right, the fundamental choice, that American women have had enshrined in constitutional law for half a century. Today, that conservative U.S. Supreme Court returned America to a darker time in our past — a time of fright and secrecy, of shame and physical danger for women. But women all across America today should know: Connecticut and its laws — written and passed by Democrats — is a beacon of hope and safety for you. We understand, we are on your side, and we will always be there for women who someday may have to make a difficult decision about their own body and who will need compassion, care, and a legal system that supports and protects them. That will never change in Connecticut.” — State Sen. Julie Kushner

“Although we have been waiting for the other shoe to drop since we learned of the Supreme Court leaked opinion in May, I don’t know that we could have adequately prepared ourselves for the emotional toll this decision brings. While we deserve time to digest this reversal of long-settled law, we do not have the luxury of inaction. My colleagues and I will continue to ensure abortion is legal, safe and accessible here in Connecticut, and Connecticut will remain a safe haven for those seeking and providing abortions. State legislatures will now be a citizen’s direct line of defense in this attack on reproductive rights, and I implore you to continue to elect representatives who are steadfast and unwavering in their support of abortion access.” — State Sen. Christine Cohen

“People of color have historically experienced disproportionately poor health outcomes and poor treatment in the health care system, and today’s ruling will likely have an outsized effect on people of color who will find their health care choices further constrained. Already, women of color have worse outcomes in maternal health, regardless of socioeconomic status.” — Tiffany Donelson, president, Connecticut Health Foundation

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

Andrew joined CT Mirror as an investigative reporter in July 2021. Prior to moving to Connecticut, Andrew was a reporter at newspapers in North Dakota, West Virginia and most recently South Carolina. He’s covered business, utilities, environmental issues, the opioid crisis, local government and two state legislatures. Do you have a story tip? Reach Andrew at 843-592-9958