Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Jillian Gilchrest speaks as Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, NARAL’s Sarah Croucher, Rep. Matt Lesser, Merrill Gay, and Rep. Michael Winkler watch (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Gathered Friday on the north steps of the state Capitol in Hartford, a small group of pro-choice organizations and state lawmakers condemned the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s recent statement on abortion.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, told The Hill on Monday that there will be no litmus test for candidates, including their position on abortion.

“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” said Luján in the interview. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”

Luján, who is serving his second term as DCCC chairman. clarified his statements on his Facebook page, explaining that he’s personally pro-choice, but that in order to win back the House in 2018 they will “have to win in very tough, diverse, swing Republican held districts across the country. Ultimately, the people in districts across the country will determine who will take on the Republican incumbent.”

That’s not acceptable to Jillian Gilchrest, a co-organizer of the Women’s March Connecticut.

She said the DCCC “sure is marketing off the Women’s March,” which was one of the largest protests following Republican President Donald Trump’s inauguration. A photo of the Women’s March is in the background of the DCCC landing page.

However, “the Women’s March believes in pro-choice values,” Gilchrest said. “And we believe that when you bring people in you don’t do it at the expense of others.”

She said they want the DCCC to treat abortion as a “personal decision and not a political one.”

She said the party should be focused on bringing in candidates who “respect women” and their personal decisions. The personal beliefs of a candidate “should not come before the rights of their constituents,” Gilchrest said.

Sarah Croucher, of NARAL’s Connecticut chapter, said they were in Hartford Friday to call on the Democratic Party to support the health of all women and to support the ability of women to make the healthcare decisions that are right for them.

“If the Democratic Party supports equality, it much support full access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion regardless of their income and not matter what state they live in,” Croucher said. “…No politician should impose purely ideological beliefs on public policy.”

Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, who is running for governor, said there should be no support and “no quarter given” to candidates who don’t support women’s reproductive choices.

He said “surrendering your principles” in order to win “is a massive error.”

He said in the end it doesn’t make sense because if you surrender those principles and then you win “what are you going to do with that Congress when you win?”

“What’s the point to begin with?” Drew said.

He said this issue is about “personal freedom.”

Rep. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, said he was on the platform writing committee for the Democratic National Committee a few years ago and reproductive rights is a core value of the Democratic Party.

He said any candidate running for office who didn’t support Social Security or Medicare could not get the support of the Democratic Party. He said the only place the Democratic Party has a double standard is when it comes to reproductive rights.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Connecticut Family Institute (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Connecticut Family Institute, said his organization supports the DCCC’s stance.

“I hope that the Democratic Party continues with the policy it has established. I salute them for it,” Wolfgang said. “I hope that they disregard the extreme, intolerant advice of this press conference.”

He said former Gov. Ella Grasso would not have been able to serve Connecticut as its first female governor, if such a litmus test existed back then.

Without commenting on the DCCC’s statements, the Connecticut Democratic Party said it has a long history of supporting candidates who support women’s reproductive rights.

“The Connecticut Democratic Party has a long track record of supporting candidates and elected officials who not only support a woman’s right to choose, but work tirelessly to ensure resources are available for all women to access critical reproductive health care,” Leigh Appleby, a spokesman for the party said. “On the other hand, the Connecticut legislators who put forward dozens and dozens of anti-choice bills in 2017 alone have one thing in common: They’re not members of our party. “

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, the highest ranking elected female in Connecticut, was scheduled to attend the event, but was unavailable due to an illness.