The U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade last week ended the constitutional right to abortion, handing the regulation of reproductive rights to the states. In Connecticut, which has some of the nation’s strongest abortion protections — and a former businessman at the helm — those rights have quickly become a recruiting tool.
On Friday, just a week after the Supreme Court’s decision came out, Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz published an open letter, addressed, “Dear business owners,” with a timely reminder of where Connecticut stands on reproductive health.
“We are writing to any business owner that is disappointed in the stance of their current state,” the letter reads. “If you are looking to relocate to a state that supports the rights of women and whose actions and laws are unwavering in support of tolerance and inclusivity, Connecticut is for you.”
The governor’s office concurrently released a video of Lamont speaking directly to the camera, noting that many states will be rolling back abortion rights as a result of the ruling.
“Not here in Connecticut,” Lamont says. “Not as long as I’m governor.”
As of noon on Friday, the video, posted to the governor’s Twitter account, had more than 16,000 views.
Lamont spokesman Max Reiss said the letter and video were circulated to “members of the press in myriad states,” with the idea that business owners elsewhere might hear the Connecticut governor’s message on their local news.
“If this elicits a conversation in places like Texas or Florida or Missouri, we think that’s a good thing for Connecticut,” Reiss said.
Both Lamont and his predecessor, former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, have touted the state’s business climate by highlighting its progressive social policies. In the video, Lamont called Connecticut “the most family-friendly state in the country,” citing paid family leave, support for early childhood education and daycare, and the state’s highly-ranked education system.
But some businesses say those costs can add up. In its most recent survey of members, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association found that 14% of the state’s business owners say workplace mandates and compliance costs were the main factor hampering their growth; 18% cited high business taxes as the top thing holding them back.
On Friday, Lamont’s Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski, said he was doubtful Connecticut’s abortion laws would be much of an enticement for businesses, which consider many factors when making location decisions.
“I don’t think there’s that much of a relationship there,” Stefanowski said. “I don’t see the direct connection the governor does. It’s a nice stump speech point. But I don’t think that’s a reason companies are going to come to Connecticut.”
Bruce McGuire, president of the Connecticut Hedge Fund Association in Greenwich, said, “If Connecticut was stuck between a bunch of red states, that argument would be much stronger.” The alternative investment sector, which includes hedge funds and private equity, are largely located in the vicinity of Wall Street, he said, and Connecticut’s neighboring states are already essentially in “lockstep” on the issue of abortion.
“We’re not competing with South Dakota for talent,” McGuire said.
Fran Pastore, founder and chief executive of the Women’s Business Development Council in Stamford, said she has observed an influx of interest from female entrepreneurs looking for support to launch their businesses in Connecticut. Of roughly 1,000 applicants for a WBDC small business grant program this year, half were from outside the state, she said.
Progressive economic policies supporting working women — from small business grants to paid family and medical leave, funding for child care and increasing the minimum wage (which rose to $14 an hour on July 1 in Connecticut) — have the combined effect of getting more women “a seat at the table,” Pastore said. And she believes that’s a good thing, regardless of one’s politics.
“Let’s be honest, five men and one woman just made a decision about more than 52% of the population,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you are pro-choice or not, women need to be looking at who is making the decisions across the board — in corporate America, in Washington, D.C., and in Hartford, Connecticut.”
Staff writer Mark Pazniokas contributed to this report.