HARTFORD, CT — A morning press conference to announce the launch of a new reproductive rights hotline veered into campaign territory Friday as Gov. Ned Lamont named U.S. Senate candidate Leora Levy and by extension his Republican opponent as threats to abortion rights nationwide.
“This is not over. This is a warning shot across the bow, what you saw come out of the Supreme Court,” Lamont said from a podium positioned beneath the face of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who features prominently in a vibrant mural of female leaders painted on the Market Street offices of the Community Renewal Team.
The governor and his commissioners of public health and social services joined fellow Democrats Mayor Luke Bronin and Attorney General William Tong to announce a new hotline for women from both in and out of state to access resources on aborition services here in Connecticut, where policymakers have taken steps to ensure the preservation of reproductive rights as other states have rolled them back.
Connecticut abortion services providers have braced for an influx of people from out-of-state seeking reproductive health care here and Lamont said doctors have reported confusion among Connecticut patients regarding the procedure’s legality.
The hotline — 1-866-CTCHOICE — aims to answer those questions and help patients identify providers or arrange for transportation. It will be staffed by a contractor of the Social Services Department. Funding details were unavailable Friday morning.
But despite efforts to further enshrine abortion rights in Connecticut, Lamont, who is competing in a re-election bid against his 2018 rival Bob Stefanowski, said the future of reproductive health care in America was uncertain.
He then pointed to Levy — one of three candidates seeking the Republican nomination to run against U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in November. Levy faces Themis Klarides, who won the party’s convention endorsement in May, and Peter Lumaj during a primary on Tuesday next week.
“I worry that one of our candidates for senate supports outlawing a woman’s right to choose across the country,” Lamont said. “Leora Levy would go down to Washington D.C. and join [U.S. Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell to outlaw that choice. So choice is on the ballot.”
Although Levy’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment, the candidate has described herself as pro-life during this campaign, a shift from earlier positions. During a debate last week, Levy said she was “committed to life beginning at conception” with exceptions for rape, incest and health problems endangering the life of the mother.
Despite rebuking him in 2016, Levy accepted an endorsement from former President Donald Trump on Thursday night. Trump’s endorsement did not go unnoticed by the governor, who also briefly claimed Levy had been endorsed by Stefanowski before correcting himself. Stefanowski did donate $5,800 to Levy’s campaign.
“[Levy] got endorsed by my opponent Bob Stefanowski, she got endorsed by Donald Trump — at least Bob gave her money — so this shows you this is a race that still matters and that choice is on the ballot and this is the most family friendly state in the United States of America,” Lamont said.
Lamont’s campaign quickly followed the event with a press release linking Stefanowski, Levy and Trump as all pursuing “extremist policies.”
At a campaign stop last week, Stefanowski brushed off questions regarding why he donated to Levy’s campaign and not to the campaign of Klarides, the party-endorsed candidate.
“This is Democratic noise,” Stefanowski said. “I mean, I donate to dozens of candidates. I think the issue was Leora being pro-life — my lieutenant governor [state Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield] is pro choice. I think I look more at who I pick for lieutenant governor than one of the dozens of people [who received donations].”
In a statement Friday, Stefanowski said he would let Lamont worry about federal politics.
“Count on Ned to continue lying; but Ned and I both support a woman’s right to choose, where we differ is on getting the state back on the right track and making it more affordable for people to live, work and raise a family here,” Stefanowski said.
Stefanowski has carefully navigated articulating his own positions on abortion, saying he would support Connecticut’s law codifying a woman’s right to chose but would also support a new law requiring mandatory parental notification for anyone under 16 to receive an abortion.
During Friday’s press conference under the Ruth Bader Ginsburg mural, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said no such notification is required in Connecticut.
“Abortion care in Connecticut is confidential. Minors can receive abortion care,” Bysiewicz said, displaying a handwritten sign with the new hotline’s number. “We want everybody in America to know that this resource is here.”