Not everyone agrees abortion is a governor’s race issue
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — There’s a debate in this year’s race for Connecticut’s next governor as to whether the abortion issue should even be issue at all.
The two Democratic candidates and the state Democratic Party argue it should be, especially given the prospect of President Donald Trump appointing a social conservative to the U.S. Supreme Court justice who might support overturning Roe vs. Wade. They’re also warning voters how longstanding state abortion protections could be at risk, especially given the close partisan makeup of the Connecticut General Assembly.
“I think you should ask the Republican candidates for governor — are they going to stand for Connecticut values or are they going to stand with Donald Trump on this issue,” Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, recently told reporters. “It’s a litmus test, I think, in terms of what kind of state we’re going to be.”
Lamont’s Democratic primary challenger, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, said he’s “suited up and ready to go” fight to protect Connecticut’s law, one of a handful in the country that affirms a woman’s right to choose abortion.
Yet, with the exception of former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, Republican candidates have shied away from speaking about abortion. The campaigns for several GOP candidates declined to comment on their stance or respond to questions posed by The Associated Press. A spokesman for businessman David Stemerman said he preferred to focus on economic issues facing Connecticut and his plan to bring back jobs.
“David is not going to be distracted by the Malloy-Lamont team’s efforts to fear-monger and divert attention from years of failed rule by Hartford insiders,” said Albert Eisenberg.
Meanwhile, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton responded by issuing a statement that claimed the Democrats’ “tactical game plan for November” was to “obfuscate, deflect and deny.” The campaigns for candidates Steve Obsitnik and Bob Stefanowski did not respond. Independent candidate Oz Griebel said he has no intention of changing current state law.
While Herbst’s campaign also did not respond to requests for comment, the conservative candidate has spoken publicly about supporting legislation requiring parents be notified if their minor child seeks an abortion. In May, Herbst was endorsed by the socially conservative Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee.
Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said Herbst’s willingness to be out front on social issues makes him “stand out from the pack,” noting how GOP politicians “still tend to act like a deer in the headlights” when asked about abortion and abortion-related issues in a state where a 2012 Quinnipiac University Poll found 70 percent of likely voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
While Wolfgang is optimistic the Roe vs. Wade ruling on abortion rights could be overturned, he does not foresee Connecticut’s law being at risk.
“When we can’t even get a hearing on parental notification in Connecticut, the idea that we’re going to overturn the 1990 law that codified Roe vs. Wade is not realistic,” he said. He contends the Democrats are trying to motivate their base of voters.
“They have to. They have nothing else,” he said, repeating criticisms from Republicans who’ve accused Democrats of wanting to shift the debate from the state’s fiscal woes.
But Wolfgang is hopeful this election could ultimately lead to a parental notification law in Connecticut. He contends there’s bipartisan support for the concept, even among abortion rights supporters.
“Even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the best we could hope for is a parental notification law,” he said. “And that’s where we’re aiming all of our political energy.”
That “chipping away” at Connecticut’s abortion protections is what worries Sarah Croucher, executive director of NARAL Pro Choice Connecticut, saying such changes put “more barriers and restrictions” around abortion services, even if the underlying law remains in place.